Obituary - Duncan Fleet, 1962-2009

3rd April 2009 at 01:00

He was one of those rare PE teachers who go on to become heads. Duncan Fleet used the tremendous energy he had shown on the football field to transform his school into one of the best in the country.

Never afraid of his local authority or politicians, Mr Fleet, who died of cancer earlier last month aged 46, persisted in driving through changes to Culverhay School in Bath, which saw it once ranked as the top value-added boys secondary in the country.

He left to receive treatment in January 2008 but remained passionate about the direction of the school, keeping in touch to share his views and opinions. But, above all, he wanted to know about the pupils.

There was standing room only at his funeral, a sign of how much he was respected by pupils and staff.

Mr Fleet was known for making great efforts to get to know his pupils, going on the Year 7 residential trip every year and running its football team.

He took a lot of friendly mocking for supporting Newcastle United, but he was known for his sense of humour - and his creativity.

"He had at least 100 new ideas a day, 99 of which were daft but there was always a gem," said colleague Sean Wyartt, now acting headteacher.

"Duncan was great fun to work with, and always the first one in and the last one to leave. He was from the North East but we never held that against him. He always took a joke."

Mr Fleet came south to study at Exeter University and worked in Hertfordshire briefly before returning to the city to take up his first headship at Culverhay in 2003.

The two most important things in his life were his job and his family - he was married to Stephanie, a teacher, and they have two young daughters, Molly and Anna-Louise. He chose to move to Bath partly because he thought it was a good place to raise his children.

Mr Fleet's experience running sports clubs as a PE teacher convinced him of the great benefits of extended schools and the need to work more with the community. He passionately believed local sports facilities needed to be improved.

During his time at Culverhay, in the Rush Hill area of the city, he was the driving force behind it becoming a maths and computing specialist college. The school made the greatest progress in its history.

"He was very single-minded about some issues if it was something he believed in," said Mr Wyartt. "He had a clear vision for the school and did everything to make sure it was realised."

He never shirked the difficult jobs, such as dealing with unhappy parents or making uncomfortable phone calls.

Not only did Mr Fleet oversee Pounds 60,000 worth of funding for a new school sports centre, but he was behind the launch of the Odd Down Hub Club, which now sees the school working with community groups.

He was also heavily involved in laying the foundations for the school taking on trust status in a move that would strengthen links with Bath Spa University. This would mean student teachers having their base at Culverhay.

The school made the news this year for being part of a scheme, run by the university, which puts 17 trainees in one class as part of their course.

Mr Fleet saw school as being about more than just exam results and was keen for his boys to have new experiences. He introduced weekly enrichment days where pupils get the chance to try a new skill, such as drama, cooking or an alternative sport.

He also started the school's Air Training Corps and the in-house radio station.

In Culverhay's last Ofsted report, inspectors recognised Mr Fleet's "outstanding" leadership and said that he was well respected within the school and the community.

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