A Nottinghamshire headteacher who has spent 36 years in education says he has “high hopes” for the next generation as he calls time on a storied career.
Bill Lewis, 61, is the longest-serving headteacher in the county having spent 28 years in the top job – including more than a decade at St Philip Neri with St. Bede Catholic Voluntary Academy in Mansfield.
But it wasn’t in Nottinghamshire where he first joined the education sector.
Mr Lewis qualified as a teacher in 1984 and started his career in the east end of London, working at a school in Bow for two years.
He moved to another school in the Whitechapel area before swapping the capital for Robin Hood’s country two-and-a-half years later – taking up a job as deputy-headteacher at St Augustine’s Primary School in St Ann’s.
He went on to become the Nottingham school’s headteacher, a job he held for 18 years, before moving to the Mansfield site in April 2010 – spending 10 “cherished” years teaching in the town where he settled when he made the move up north.
However, he has now decided to call time on his career in education – 36 years after it all began.
Speaking on the final day of the academic year, Mr Lewis says he “wouldn’t change a thing” about his career as he said goodbye to his final cohort of pupils.
“I’ve had the privilege of working with some fantastic children, some brilliant staff and got to know incredible parents”, he told Nottinghamshire Live.
“The great thing about the school is that it is so community centred, it’s a catholic school and we’ve got a great relationship with everyone in the area.
“Despite coming up from London me and my family have been so happy here in Nottinghamshire, we love it in Mansfield and have lived here for 31 years.
“Working at the school gave me a sense of community and that’s what I loved most about the job – I got to work with amazing parents, pupils, staff and the priests.”
Mr Lewis says he has been planning for his retirement for more than a year and made the decision in January to finally call it a day.
However, when he announced his retirement “the whole world then fell apart” and the coronavirus pandemic struck.
But since lockdown came into effect, he has worked every day at the Mansfield school – supporting parents, pupils and staff through the “unprecedented” times.
He says the response from everyone connected to his school throughout the crisis has been “phenomenal”.
“It has been a very worrying time for families and children, but I’ve been here every day since March 23 and the children have been great”, he said.
“That is because the parents and adults around them have been so supportive, we’ve all rolled our sleeves up and got on with the job.
“My final message to the children would be that my generation have made a real poor fist of things, and today’s children who don’t get a very good press, have got an incredibly bright future.
“They have to do a better job than my generation, though they can’t really do a worse job.”
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Nicola Sokala, a spokesperson for the Mansfield school, said Mr Lewis will be missed by staff and pupils.
“He is a much loved and very well respected headteacher who will be greatly missed by all the pupils, parents and staff”, she said.
“During the lockdown, he has been a true hero and worked every single day to keep the school open to key workers and never had a day off himself.
“Mr Lewis is a true community hero and a great friend to all. His cracking sense of humour is legendary.”