'Legendary' Mansfield headteacher retires as Nottinghamshire's longest serving head
For some people heading to retirement means winding down and taking stock – but for Nottinghamshire’s longest-serving head teacher the past few months have been anything but.
Bill Lewis is retiring after 28 years as the head of St Philip Neri with St. Bede Catholic Voluntary Academy.
Mr Lewis, 61, qualified as a teacher in 1984 and started his teaching career in the East End of London at St Agnes Primary School, Bow.
After two years he moved to St Paul’s C of E, Whitechapel, London where he loved working with the largely Bengali community. After two and a half years he moved to Nottingham City, taking up the role of Deputy Head at St Augustine's and later the headship.
He remained there until 2009 when he started at St Philip Neri with St. Bede Catholic Voluntary Academy in Mansfield.
Mr Lewis will now retire from education in August after steering the school through the coronavirus pandemic .
Teaching assistant Nicola Sokala said: “He is a much loved and very well respected head teacher who will be greatly missed by all the pupils, parents and staff.
"During the lock down, he has been a true hero and worked every single day to keep the school open to key workers and never had a day off himself.
"Mr Lewis is a true community hero and a great friend to all. His cracking sense of humour is legendary.”
Nobody could have predicted the challenge faced by schools since the coronavirus pandemic took hold. But Mr Lewis said the entire school had risen to the challenges it brought.
Mr Lewis said: "Since the 23rd of March since lockdown we’ve had teams working with vulnerable children in and then from June 1 we’ve had designated year groups. This week we’re having transition for those year groups year 3, 4 and 5 who haven’t been in to get them ready for September.
"So we’ve had our risk assessment which has been very thorough from our trust so I think we’ve done more than our bit. It’s just a worrying time for everybody really.
“Children come in for a lot of criticism but I think they are absolutely brilliant they need all the encouragement they can get.
“I’m sure they will rise to the challenge . And being a parent in the 21st century is a difficult job as it is anyway. To be living in the middle of Covid and bringing up children has been a challenge for everybody but I think parents have done really well.
“Teachers, teaching assistants, the cleaning staff and the office staff all put the children first. I feel very privileged and I’ve loved education.”
Mr Lewis said he plans to spend more time with his own family in retirement, and intends to travel, go walking and pursue other interests.
"I’ve been a teacher for 36 years and a head for 28 and I’ve loved it,” he said.
"I want to say a huge heartfelt thanks to the parish of St Philip, to the parents, to the children and of course to staff I work with. All of them are absolutely wonderful.”