Steyning Grammar School: Tributes paid to two long-standing teachers as they leave after decades at the school

Steyning Grammar School has bid farewell to two long-standing teachers, who clocked up more than a century of teaching between them.

Wednesday, 28th July 2021, 11:18 am

Tributes were paid to former head of maths Geoff Buckwell and assistant headteacher Alana Davidson at the staff leavers’ event last Wednesday, when many colleagues attended online to share memories and messages.

Nat Nicol and Noel Kennedy, co-headteachers, said: “Both students and staff are finding it hard to imagine the school without Geoff and Alana.

“They epitomise what it is to be a great teacher and their exemplary service has been rightly recognised. We would like to thank them both for their dedication and commitment to the Steyning family over so many years and wish them both a long and fruitful retirement, and well-deserved rest.”

Geoff Buckwell joined Steyning Grammar School in 1970 as a maths teacher and Alana Davidson joined in September 1989 as second in department of modern languages

Mr Buckwell joined in September 1970 as a maths teacher and was the last appointee in post from the Boys’ Grammar School.

Staff said students had nothing but the highest respect for what was now the legendary outstanding teaching delivered by the former head of maths.

Luke Talbot, assistant headteacher, said: “His teaching was so often characterised by a sense of humour and spontaneity that puts students at ease. He has made his classrooms a magical place for learners to be. He is a great master of his subject and his craft.

“Author of text books used widely across the country, his explanations have influenced numerous learners and practitioners. He is adept at spotting, coaching and supporting potential mathematicians to the highest levels.

Geoff Buckwell and his wife were honoured to be invited to high tea with the mayor of Brighton

“A true Renaissance man, Geoff has used his wider skills to inspire students, parents and staff. He is quick to volunteer to be part of school charity fundraising events, with his incredible electric guitar playing. His beautiful counter-tenor voice has been showcased in school choirs and productions.

“As a competitive sportsman, his prowess on the school football and cricket field were acclaimed. As a learning mentor of sixth formers, he has shown empathy, care and concern for anyone going through challenging times, he will fight their comer and leave no stone unturned in their time of need.”

Geoff was nominated by colleagues and received the Pearson National Teaching Awards Lifetime Achievement Award 2021 for his exceptional and distinguished service to Steyning Grammar School and to education. His career was also recognised by the mayor of Brighton, who invited him and his wife for high tea.

Mrs Davidson taught for many years at schools in London and Surrey before joining Steyning Grammar in September 1989 as second in department of modern languages.

Mr Talbot said: “A classicist by training and French literature specialist, Alana’s passion for her craft is matched only by her commitment to welfare of both students and staff, having overseen staff welfare as assistant headteacher for many years.

“Whatever the post, she could be relied upon to bring her own brand of forensic interrogation, unwavering energy, high expectations and fearless intent.”

A former ISI Inspector for Boarding, Alana sat on the State Boarding Schools Association for many years, promoting the cause of the next generation of female boarding practitioners.

She was also instrumental in securing government funding for a new boarding house at Steyning in 2011 and oversaw a major expansion of boarding at the school.

In 2017, her commitment to boarding on a national stage was recognised with the Boarding Schools Association Leo Winkley Award.

Mr Talbot added: “Never one to shirk responsibility or shy away from challenging issues, she has always wanted the best for the school. Floods, fire, snow, personal trauma, illness and a global pandemic have never stopped Alana from coming to work.

“Undoubtedly her glamorous persona, intelligent debate and strong advocacy for the staff and students of Steyning will long be remembered.”