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End of era for college


When the bell rings this afternoon to mark the end of the school term at the Dukeries College, Ollerton, it will also mark the end of an era for the school principal.

Mr Lewis Walker retires from his post today after ten years in charge, and 21 years at the school.

He said: “I am very proud of what I have achieved here. When I told people I was coming to Ollerton, some said some very unkind things about the place.

“I believe we have changed the landscape.

“It has not just been about exams but broadening horizons and giving them a wider area of experience.

“If a pupil is only capable of a D-grade and they get that, we should celebrate it, and we have tried to do that at the same time as meeting government targets.

“Learning is the only thing for many youngsters, and we have tried to be simple in our message of respect for ourselves, others and the environment.”

Mr Walker (60) is originally from north Derbyshire and is the son of a coal miner.

He started his teacher career at two schools in Hertfordshire where he taught PE, English and music.

He then moved to a school in St Neots, Cambridgeshire, before arriving at the Dukeries in 1986 as a first deputy.

He became the principal in 1997.

Before his teaching career took off he played semi-professional football for York City and Hendon.

He also has a masters degree in educational management and administration from East Anglia University.

Mr Walker said he was proud to have secured £5m-worth of resources for the school from the local community to help them meet their aspirations.

These included £1m for sports facilities and an £80,000 Arts Council grant for the theatre.

He said he was also proud of the school’s new £1.6m construction centre, which is set to be officially opened by the secretary of state for children, schools and families, Mr Ed Balls, in February.

Mr Walker said there was a national skills deficit and it was important vocational qualifications were considered equivalent to academic qualifications.

He said they now had pupils going on to Oxbridge, and the school maintained a good tradition in music.

Mr Walker said the school had a strong middle leadership which had been able to take on more delegated responsibility.

He said: “In the main I have experienced a lot of kindness and acceptance from the students, which makes the job a lot easier.”

He said he was left speechless in March when pupils David Johnson (14) Jason Dudley (14) and Tyrone Benson (15) who had challenging behaviour, presented him with a lectern they had made themselves.

Mr Walker said: “The level of craftsmanship was astonishing, and it was proof that students will always surprise you.

“Some would like to say it should be one mistake and they are out, but you need to convince children and their parents, through an educational point of view, that is not the right thing to do.”

Mr Walker said he would have liked to have been more successful in creating a wider learning community.

He said: “I am leaving through choice and with a great deal of satisfaction.

“A big issue for the future will be raising literacy levels, and there is a massive gap between boys’ and girls’ attainment.

“Also, if accuracy can be improved with both speech and the written word, it could raise levels of achievement in other areas.”

Mr Walker said he did not want to retire fully and had not ruled out voluntary or casual work.

He said he would also like to learn to cook, play more golf, and perhaps take up the piano again. He also wants to help out more in the garden.

He is married to Mrs Janet Walker, a retired art teacher. They have two children, Mr Matthew Walker (27) of York, and Miss Ruth Walker (26) of Stamford, Lincolnshire.

Mr Walker’s successor is Mr Danny Smith, the current head of the Wilsthorpe Business and Enterprise College, Long Eaton.

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