Burgess Hill teacher retires after 44 years continuous service

A Burgess Hill teacher is retiring after more than four decades of continuous service at the same school.

Mike Wood first joined Oakmeeds Comprehensive, now Burgess Hill Academy, in 1975 as the school’s youngest teacher, aged just 21.

DM1974516a.jpg. Mike Wood is retiring after 44 years teaching at  Oakmeeds/Burgess Hill Academy. He has been head of music for 32 years. Photo by Derek Martin Photography. SUS-190722-165919008

DM1974516a.jpg. Mike Wood is retiring after 44 years teaching at Oakmeeds/Burgess Hill Academy. He has been head of music for 32 years. Photo by Derek Martin Photography. SUS-190722-165919008

Now, having taught more than 10,000 pupils in a career spanning four decades, he is leaving the school for the last time.

Head of music Mike, awarded the British Empire Medal, who has lived in Burgess Hill since 1977, said: “I have taught around 10,000 Burgess Hill students spanning three generations and I am delighted to be leaving the academy as it is very much in the ascendant having been awarded good in our latest Ofsted inspection and about to have the largest year seven entry for many years.

“I am proud that my legacy will be the beautiful building and facilities which will benefit many generations of Burgess Hill students to come as I complete my journey from the wooden prefab to a multi-million pound block.”

Mike first joined the school as a music teacher after leaving college.

He had a timetable with 37 lessons a week out of a possible 40 including four religious studies lessons, despite having not studied the subject since the age of 14.

He added: “As well as teaching music to all years in the school I was also required to help out with the school orchestra and senior choir, run the junior choir, recorder group and guitar group and be part of the direction team of the school annual musical production.

“I loved the music teaching and extracurricular clubs and during my first years helped out with English department productions, the annual staff Christmas revue (in which the teachers made complete fools of themselves) and ran a German exchange with a school in Dusseldorf.”

Mike also took a leading role in several school musicals, cast as the Duke in The Gondoliers, the King in The King and I and Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof.

He said head of department John Fernee, who directed the musicals, also recruited him into the Burgess Hill Operatic Society as the Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance in 1976.

When John retired in 1986 Mike took on the role of head of music, moving classrooms from a prefab to the former Burgess Hill Library.

He added: “It was called the Music Centre and I was to teach in that room for the next 18 years.

“In the same year the new GCSE exam was created and in 1988 I sat the final music O level exam along with the class I had taught it to!

“In 1987 I was appointed as musical director of the Burgess Hill Choral Society, a post I still hold.”

Mike was made head of expressive arts at Oakmeeds Faculty incorporating the music, drama and expressive arts departments in the mid-1990s.

He said: “During that time one of my GCSE music students won the award of the highest score in the exam in the country.

“I formed the Oakmeeds Early Music Consort, students performing music on recorders, crumhorns and strings.

“We toured the UK and Germany along with the Oakmeeds German Choir, performing to the Queen in 1999.”

In 2001 Mike was promoted to head of the arts faculty after the addition of art to the department.

In 2005 a restructure of the faculty system by the head Colin Taylor saw him return to the post of head of music which Mike held until this academic year.

He added: “[I was in the post] a total of 32 years - the longest [serving] head of department the school has had.”

But Mike didn’t just teach, even designing the new music and drama building.

He said: “In 2002 plans were begun to create a new music and drama block and I made sure I attended every meeting from the first planning session at County Hall to the final signing of the building.

“After much work with the architects I was invited to design the final building and the detailed drawings I submitted were what was built!

“In 2012 I was presented with an award for outstanding service to the community by the Mid Sussex District Council and a year later was in the Queen’s Honours List, receiving the British Empire Medal for services to music in Burgess Hill.

“A year later I was awarded the top teacher award by Bright FM.”

Mike said he has been reducing his days working since 2012 and will finish his tenure as he started, with a music production.

He added: “After 44 years continuous service I will walk out of Oakmeeds/The Burgess Hill Academy for the last time; it will be a strange feeling as I have been striding many of these corridors all of my working life.

“I am, however, delighted to be leaving my beloved department with my very able colleague and dear friend Hannah [Frean] who I know will take it to new heights over the future years.”