Norman Tyson: The man who brought investment to Honiton college

PUBLISHED: 10:14 22 July 2009 | UPDATED: 23:51 15 June 2010

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AS Norman Tyson prepares for semi-retirement and says his goodbyes to students and staff at Honiton Community College, the Midweek Herald looks back at his 16-year reign as principal and asks: what will be his legacy?

AS Norman Tyson prepares for semi-retirement and says his goodbyes to students and staff at Honiton Community College, the Midweek Herald looks back at his 16-year reign as principal and asks: what will be his legacy?

WHEN Norman Tyson first laid eyes on Honiton Community College he admits it was like "hut city".

The college had the highest number of temporary classrooms in Devon and, with expanding student numbers, was in a good position to attract investment.

It presented the kind of challenge Mr Tyson, now 58, had been looking for, after deciding to move on from his previous post as the deputy head teacher of the Sir Bernard Lovell School, in east Bristol.

After a brief career as a research scientist, he already had 19 years of experience in the teaching profession when the retirement of Derek Yates opened up a fresh opportunity in Honiton.

"I was looking for a headship and Honiton offered more than that, because the principal's post came with responsibility for youth provision and community education," he told the Herald as he began the task of clearing his desk last week.

"It was something more than a traditional head teacher's role.

"We were hut city in those days; Honiton had more huts than any other secondary school in Devon.

"We were lucky that the buildings were so awful - they made our case for new ones obvious."

Honiton Community College became the first school to have timber framed buildings, offering a substantial cost saving.

The English block was the first to be constructed. Devon County Council used East Devon District Council's borrowing facility to raise the necessary funds.

"The college expanded to 1,000 students and we needed more specialist facilities, and to replace the remaining huts," said Mr Tyson.

"When we decided to go for specialist status, we discussed it with parents and potential funders. It was felt that science and mathematics would offer students the most opportunities to further their career prospects.

"What it offers is an enhanced learning opportunity; it's not instead of the broader provision."

To bid for specialist status, the college had to raise £50,000 in sponsorship - no mean feat in an area where big industry hardly exists.

"It was incredibly hard," Mr Tyson recalls. "It took us one year of visiting and talking to lots of people.

"We raised the money in very small amounts, for which we are grateful.

"Our four-year plan had to be accepted by the Specialist Status Trust. We had to show increased student opportunity and rising student achievement."

With specialist status came match-funding from the government, giving the college a total of £100,000 to provide an eLearning Centre.

However, in the time it took to get specialist status, building costs shot up and the college had to use a further £50,000 from its capital funds to provide the facility.

"The gain has been a huge increase in opportunities and resources to support our contributory primary schools, and we have offered a number of community courses - something the college is looking to increase in the coming year," said Mr Tyson.

He told the Herald the most satisfying part of his role in Honiton has been watching individual students achieve success.

"Nothing stands still," he said. The staff have moved the college on and will continue to do so.

"We have met the challenge on many occasions and, hopefully, our students are better for it.

"I would like to thank staff and governors for their hard work over the years.

"And I'd like to thank the students, for actually making the job fun, and those parents who put in the support for their children."

Mr Tyson retires from Honiton Community College today (Wednesday), although his contract will officially run until the end of August.

He hopes to finally find the time to indulge in a hobby, but won't be completely retired.

In September he will start a part-time job as the head teacher of a virtual school. His students will be young people in care.

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