|24 Aug 2020|
Two teaching stalwarts retired at the end of the unprecedented summer term having given a combined 90 years’ service to Brentwood School, described by Headmaster Michael Bond as ‘an extraordinary tour of duty in anyone’s book!’
Long-standing Head of Politics, Mr Mike Willis, who retires after a staggering 47 years, and former Deputy Head, Mr Nigel Carr, who hangs up his gown after 43 years, have inspired generations of Brentwood pupils.
In a special video tribute, Mr Bond said: “My words can’t really do justice to what you have both given the School, but thank you for everything and very best wishes for a happy and healthy retirement. And do come back and see us - you'll always be welcome at Brentwood.”
When Mr Willis started teaching at Brentwood, fresh out of Oxford University and a newly qualified teacher, the Cold War and Vietnam War still raged and the UK was in its first years of decimal currency and EEC membership.
Mr Bond said: “As a long-standing Head of Politics, Mr Willis is one of the most straightforward and unpolitical of men. That independence from an ideological straitjacket is part of the reason why he has been able (and so willing) to expose Brentwood students to contentious issues, from inviting controversial figures to the Sir Antony Browne Society (SABS) and the Historical Society, and from speaking out on points of principle.
“During his time overseeing SABS he has secured visits from Cabinet Ministers, Peers of the Realm, a former hostage, a former Archbishop of Canterbury, a previously jailed Government Chief Economic Adviser, art critics, Strictly Come Dancing competitors and Big Brother Housemates.
“One speaker agreed to come because he was curious to meet Mr Willis as the only person he knew who still issued handwritten invitations.
“In selecting the guest list, Mr Willis has always been guided by the educational and cultural worth of the speakers, and by the pupil committee members, for he is a great advocate of Student Voice.
“In all of his years of teaching, Mr Willis has remained innovative and intellectually curious. Generations of pupils, upon seeing his pained facial expression, feared they had the wrong answer, only for him to nod in grudging acceptance of their viewpoint.”
However, Mr Willis’ contribution to Brentwood School life has encompassed far more than Politics and his stewardship of SABS: His Kentwell Hall visits saw the entire First Year dressed as Tudors; Art History trips to London involved him standing in the middle of the road and ordering Brentwood traffic to stop for his charges; House Diplomacy competitions; a re-enactment of a Victorian lesson, and custody of the School archive, including centuries old oyster shells… have all been part of his story.
Mr Bond added: “It will undoubtedly displease Mr Willis to be reminded that he has taught at Brentwood School for nearly half a century. He will equally disapprove of the sentiment that his contribution and idiosyncrasy will not easily be forgotten.
“However, many generations of pupils have been inspired by him, as evidenced by the number of them who have entered Politics and related careers. The number of former pupils who remain in touch with a teacher is one measure of our success in this noble profession. Mr Willis’ contacts are varied, distinguished, and genuine.
“We can leave it for Mr Willis, as he writes, or perhaps re-writes the School history, to discover if this length of service has ever been surpassed. Even if it has, it’s highly unlikely that we will see his equal in the School’s next half a millennium.”
Mr Carr joined Brentwood School in September 1977 as a teacher of Economics and Mathematics, after reading Economics at Cambridge University.
In his tribute, Mr Bond said: “He has since devoted over 40 years of service to the School in many different roles, all of which he has carried out with distinction and in addition to being an inspirational and passionate classroom teacher.
“From 1982 to 1993 he was Head of a highly-successful Economics and Business Studies Department; from 1987 to 1991 he was Head of South House before becoming Housemaster of Hough, a role he held between 1991 - 1999.
“For more than 10 years he was also a committed, impeccably organised and well-respected Contingent Commander of the CCF, in which capacity he oversaw the Brentwood Remembrance Parade from 1989 to 2016. He has also been a stalwart of the School’s co-curricular programme.”
A Cambridge Blue, Mr Carr fenced for England in 1980 and for the Combined Services from 1990 - 1996, and supported fencing at the School, including leading the sport for a time.
He also organised a vast array of School Expeditions in the UK, the Pyrenees, Norway, Mongolia and Ecuador. He also established a link with the Wilderness Trust that has since resulted in regular expeditions to South Africa. He was also a strong supporter of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award programme, including being the Gold Award leader and the centre manager.
Mr Bond continued: “Mr Carr served as an excellent Deputy Head for 16 years, between 1999 - 2015 and has always been highly regarded by colleagues, never more so in this role. He was a trustworthy, thoughtful and measured leader, whose combination of selflessness, academic rigour and an effective administration saw him lead from the front.
“He is also an excellent listener who has given wise and helpful guidance to so many over the years, supporting countless pupils and staff through difficult times, always with compassion and sensitivity.
“Although he is taking a well-earned retirement, it is clear that he will continue to give service to others. He will continue to tutor trainee teachers for the University of Buckingham Department of Education and will continue to work as an expedition assessor and adult trainer for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award organisation.”
Mr Carr said he was looking forward to travelling widely, particularly walking more of the long distance footpaths in the UK. He added: "I have been fortunate to work in a profession and at a school where, almost every day, for forty-three years, I have looked forward to going to work which has been because of the colleagues I have worked with and the pupils I have taught."