Crawley headteacher sets his sights on Antarctic for retirement trip

jpco 12-5-14 Head Teacher Malcolm Willis leaving (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-141205-113358001
jpco 12-5-14 Head Teacher Malcolm Willis leaving (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-141205-113358001

A headteacher who is retiring after 25 years at Pound Hill Junior School plans to cross the Antarctic Circle.

Malcolm Willis, 61, who joined Pound Hill Junior School in 1990, will retire at the end of the summer term so he can still carry out his adventurous ambitions.

Mr Willis has taught for 42 years in schools around West Sussex.

He said: “I’m going to miss the joy of children and the energy they give me.

“I’m in my 60s now but I feel as though I’m still 18 because of what they give me.”

Mr Willis and his wife, also a retiring teacher, have planned to trek across the Antarctic Circle next January.

He said: “I want to go while I feel I’m still on top, while I can still remember children’s names and while I’m still fit enough to enjoy my time.”

The intrepid teacher said he was also looking forward to volunteering as a foot path inspector for the council and spending more time with his grandchild.

He said the school’s main ethos was to ensure each child felt trusted and respected.

He added: “If we can make them feel special every day, we can turn out good citizens and make sure the next generation have the right attitude.”

He compared the way the school worked to how bamboo was grown.

He said: “We grow bamboo. Bamboo is a plant that takes a long time to establish its roots. You have to feed it well. Having done that, when it’s secure, it grows at a phenomenal pace.

“We are giving the children the roots to give them the understanding of their roles and their place in society.”

Mr Willis said the school was always ‘forward thinking’ and it was one of the first primary schools to introduce PCs, in 1990, and to buy laptops for pupils to take home, in 1994.

Parents and past pupils have paid tribute to Mr Willis on the Crawley Observer Facebook page.

Shelley Taylor described him as “an inspirational man. A wonderful teacher who deserves recognition for all his hard work.”

Janine Price said: “It’s a great school thanks largely to his leadership.”

Marianne Maloy said he made assemblies “interesting and thought provoking.”

Sharon Brooks said he is “one in a million”.

Rosemarie Mansfield added: “I remember when I was at school I could not pass him in the corridor without him stealing my headband off my head and putting it on his own! Haha, he was nuts!”