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“I’m very sad to leave”

Stalwart, teacher Howard Wood is due to retire from Oathall Community College and has arranged a � 30,000 tractor as a leaving present to the school. Pic Steve Robards SUS-140616-142834001

Stalwart, teacher Howard Wood is due to retire from Oathall Community College and has arranged a � 30,000 tractor as a leaving present to the school. Pic Steve Robards SUS-140616-142834001

A teacher will end 38 years on a ‘fantastic roller coaster’ when he retires later this year.

Howard Wood, who has taught science, ICT, PE and been head of the farm at Oathall Community College, has raised £20,000 for a new tractor as a parting gift.

He said: “I want to thank my fantastic students for keeping me enthusiastic before and after school, they’re top rate.”

“I’m very sad to leave, I’ll miss the students terribly,” he added.

He has been nominated for a lifetime achievement award by headteacher Edward Rodriguez which he has been short listed for, and is heading to the awards evening in London on July 4.

Reminiscing about his fondest memories at the college, Mr Wood said: “It was threatened that funding would be withdrawn from the farm.

“It was saved by the Prince of Wales after the students wrote letters to him, then he visited in May 2000.”

The school has enjoyed a close relationship with Prince Charles, who has helped the school with publicity and once invited Mr Wood and his students to his farm in Gloucestershire.

Mr Wood recalls a time the prince introduced him to give a speech to 150 people.

He recalled: “When the future King is complimenting you in a speech and you have to follow, what do you say?”

Mr Wood also takes pride in a young farmers club he set up.

“We have over 100 members sign up a year. That’s one tenth of the school, and it’s been running for 35 years now.”

He has also raised money for a farm shop and enjoyed successful competitions featuring the farm’s animals.

Mr Wood has been visited by the current Education Secretary, education ministers, Charles Clarke, David Miliband and Alan Titchmarsh.

He has made a DVD about a balanced approach to teaching, given talks about his preferred style of teaching, and presented to former Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families Ed Balls.

“The current education minister wants to make education very academic, but people learn in different ways, I like a vocational style,” Mr Wood explained.

He also thrives on ‘reconnecting people with where their food came from.

“I’ve taught nursery groups through to people in their 70’s,” Mr Wood added.

Looking back at almost four decades at Oathall Community College, Howard Wood described one former student as ‘an angry young man’ in his first years at the school.

“But then he came out of himself, his confidence developed, he met some nice people, the farm was the place for him, his parents were so pleased,” the teacher explained.

“It’s the pigs what did it,” he joked.

Bradley Woodward went on to do an apprenticeship at Cockhaise dairy farm and then nominated Mr Wood for the South of England Secondary Teacher of the Year Award in 2008, which he won.

“As a teacher he was brilliant, if it wasn’t for him I would have been kicked out. He took me under his wing, helped me get a job on a farm,” Bradley said.

“If you’re not willing he never gave up, he just keeps going at you, he goes the extra mile.”

Bradley explained how Mr Wood would work overtime and take students to agricultural shows with no extra pay.

“If it wasn’t for him the farm wouldn’t even be there,” Bradley continued.“Even Prince Charles wouldn’t let the farm die, in 2000 it was getting shut down, and Prince Charles came down to stop it.”

On reflection of his time at Oathall, Mr Woods concluded: “I’ll miss the students the most.”

 

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