Hero lecturer reaps reward

7th October 2005 at 01:00
Shekhar Bhatia talks to a man who has had a college department named after him

Laurence and Margaret Whitehouse had been enjoying their passion for travel when she was shot dead after being taken hostage by Islamic terrorists in Yemen.

Now, seven years after the tragedy, Mr Whitehouse, 60, has been honoured for his his continued dedication to further education. Farnborough sixth-form college has named its new e-assessment centre after its lecturer, who went on to achieve excellence in the face of grief.

When students take advantage of the new Laurence Whitehouse building, they will be reminded of a man who stands as a heroic example of his profession.

Since the tragedy, as a director of faculty, responsible for the social sciences, business and languages, he led his department to two "outstanding" grade 1s in the college's report from the Office for Standards in Education.

Ofsted inspectors, who visited in November 2001, reported finding "outstanding" teaching, "very good standards of students' work" and "rigorous monitoring of students' progress".

Mr Whitehouse, who retired two years ago but still teaches economics part time, said he was "flattered and humbled" by having the centre named after him.

He told FE Focus: "I have just been part of a team. There are lots of very good teachers in the college. A lot of the students have been wonderful to teach over the years. But it is very flattering, I am greatly honoured and somewhat humbled because the college owes a lot of its success to other people.

"Over the 34 years I have been at the college, it has been transformed greatly. It was a grammar school when it started off, with an authoritarian principal. It then had a liberal principal and now it has got what you might call a managerial principal.

"He is aware of the need for Farnborough to establish itself as one of the leading colleges in the country and set out to raise funds and have a building programme to enable that to occur. I have just been lucky to have been in a very well-managed college and I enjoy my work with students you can challenge, debate and joke with."

The centre was opened by schools minister Lord Adonis and a reception was held to honour Mr Whitehouse, who joined the staff in 1971 to teach economics.

His late wife was posthumously awarded the Australian bravery medal by the Queen in 2000 for her courage during the hostage-taking. Before she died from a bullet wound, she tried to save the life of an Australian hostage by attempting to stem the bleeding from his leg after he was shot.

He died when he was struck by another bullet during an exchange of fire between the terrorists and the Yemeni army.

Mr Whitehouse's former students at the college include Stephen Timms, currently a work and pensions minister.

Although semi-retired, Mr Whitehouse continues to live life to the full. He recently completed a charity cycle ride in Russia for the National Deaf Children's Society.

"The naming of the building after Laurence Whitehouse is a fitting but inadequate reflection of the honour he deserves as an excellent and committed teacher," said John Guy, the college's principal. "No one has contributed more to the success of Farnborough than Laurence Whitehouse."

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