No regrets for maths teacher after 50 years at Bourne Academy

Maths teacher Derek Bontoft. He has been teaching at Bourne Academy for 50 years. EMN-140906-184424009
Maths teacher Derek Bontoft. He has been teaching at Bourne Academy for 50 years. EMN-140906-184424009
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A maths teacher is reflecting on five decades in education as he celebrates 50 years working at his first and only school.

Derek Bontoft, 71, joined the school now known as Bourne Academy as a fresh-faced 21-year-old in 1964. Since then he has risen up the ranks to deputy head before taking on a part-time role helping pupils prepare for exams.

Mr Bontoft remembers the day of his interview well, and even has his mother to thank for helping him get the job. She had come with him on a trip to Sleaford market before being diverted to Bourne, and had a chat with the headmaster in the school’s car park.

“The head came back in and said my mother was a nice person, so they would like to give me the job. I thought it must have been the shortest interview in history.”

Mr Bontoft, who has worked for six different headteachers in his time, took an immediate liking to the school.

He said: “It was a quiet little secondary modern school with about 350 pupils. They were doing quite well and the children in Bourne were pretty easy to teach.

“If you can’t teach in Bourne then you can’t teach anywhere. They are very willing to learn and have a lot of parental backup.”

Mr Bontoft never intended to stay in Bourne for more than two years, and applied for a job at a Gainsborough grammar school. He said: “I had always been told to move around and get more experience in different types of schools.

“I got to the interview stage and the head at Bourne called me in. He asked if I wasn’t happy. I told him I loved it but that I had ambitions to go further. So he said he would promote me immediately, and I became head of department.”

Mr Bontoft got another reason to stay in Bourne after marrying a local girl named Joy, who later ran Joy of Flowers florists. And he was soon promoted again, this time to deputy head.

The school has undergone massive changes in the 50 years Mr Bontoft has worked there. Most recently the former Robert Manning College became Bourne Academy in September 2011.

Mr Bontoft said: “It’s a magnificent school. The facilities have really changed. Even in the original building, they have had it refurbished to such a wonderful extent.”

Amid the structural changes, the way maths is taught has changed considerably as well. From the introduction of Cuiseneire rods through to the internet and touch screens, Mr Bontoft has seen it all.

He said: “When the calculator came out I remember buying the school’s first. It was about the size of a box of chocolates.

“It could only do the basics and I paid about £70 for it, which was a huge chunk of my budget. I only let the children use it if I was stood there. Now they are used quite freely in maths teaching.”

Mr Bontoft admits the pressures on teachers now are much greater than they were 50 years ago. But he also believes the opportunities for pupils once they leave school are much greater.

And even though he has spent his entire career at just one school, Mr Bontoft is adamant he wouldn’t change a thing. He said: “There aren’t many better schools than this one. I don’t regret one minute of everything that’s happened here.”

Mr Bontoft, who is also involved with Bourne Cricket Club and the Freemasons, will give a talk on 50 Years of Education on the Bourne Academy site at 2.15pm on Friday, July 11. Former pupils or colleagues who would like to attend should e-mail by Friday, June 27.