A tribute to Nicholas J Levine (1938 - 2021)

A tribute to Nicholas J Levine (1938 - 2021)

Many staff, parents, and former students were saddened to hear of the recent death of Nick Levine, a former Headteacher of Beacon (1976-1994).

Nick joined the school when it was reputed to be the largest single-site school in Western Europe, and under his leadership the teaching staff created a vibrant learning environment, which touched the lives of countless young people.

Nick’s educational vision came from an eloquently expressed belief in the truly comprehensive school. Ahead of his time in so many ways, he insisted that every child mattered.

Nick had a unique style of leadership which was self-effacing, humane and supportive. He was never one to stay in the security of his office, but would be out and about in corridor, playground and staffroom; chatting and listening. He nurtured his staff as the school’s most valuable resource, and possessed a wisdom that made you listen, and work with him, to achieve the best outcomes for everyone.

As now, Beacon was a flagship school in the county, but one for a different era. Nick would encourage staff and departments to engage in new teaching styles and curriculum change; and allow them the space and independence to get on with them.

Nick was also a man of sport, of culture and of the arts: he fostered musical and dramatic performances and art exhibitions - he had the broadest view of what composed a good education. Among his significant achievements were turning the school into a Community College, promoting the building of the Green Lane site, supporting the Gambia project, and making Beacon a pilot school for TVEI a technical and vocational initiative. In the multifaceted role of Headteacher he was even able to increase the funds for oil costs; after proving that Crowborough was colder than the rest of East Sussex!

After retiring, he kept busy with his many interests including looking after a patch of woodland, playing golf, bridge, and table tennis, dancing and participating in reading groups. He also worked at the Citizens Advice Bureau and the local Foodbank. Nick’s actions were always underpinned by a belief in what’s right, fair and equitable and he was a great role model for anyone believing in the value of community. He will be sorely missed by his family, and all those who knew and worked with him.

Written by Mr C Hinton - Trustee and Lead on Teaching and Learning

We are collating messages from former students, families and colleagues in tribute to Mr Levine. Some of the messages that we have received are provided below. If you would like to contribute, please email your message to Cara Hoper at c.hoper@beacon-academy.org.

Tributes from former colleagues and students

Jane Trinder I was so saddened to hear of the passing of Nick Levine. I have not seen Nick since he retired from Beacon, yet his leaving party, which he attended with his lovely wife, seems like only yesterday. Many of us, as young members of staff at the time, were in complete awe of him and memories of his calm manner, wisdom, inspiration and kindness have stayed with me, prompting me to recall a number of situations now, with great respect and fondness. The first words he uttered to me as I entered reception to be interviewed by him for a teaching post in the science department, were along the lines of, “I remember patrolling Brockworth bridge at lunch time!”, to which I stuttered that I had never been on it as it was where the smokers used to go! Immediately I recognised him as the deputy head from the school I had been to as a pupil in Gloucestershire! We had the most relaxed interview I was to ever have in my entire teaching career and I was thrilled to be offered the post at his school and as it turned out, also to be the tutor to his son, Tom! Nick was an incredible man, with a great sense of fun and one that was loved dearly. He had no airs and graces, instead he was happy to join in and I remember he came to visit us during the annual Plumpton field trip and with a smile on his face accepted the offer to sit in the back of a very muddy trailer despite wearing a suit. On another occasion he came into the staff room to investigate the loud laughter at the end of school on a Friday. He just missed being squirted with a water pistol that we had confiscated from a pupil ! The look of horror on our faces sent him chuckling away down the stairs back to his office. He was definitely one of a kind. He cared deeply about humanity and wanted pupils and staff alike to be happy, as result we wanted to please him and do the best we could. As members of his family read the tributes I am sure they will be so proud that Nick had such a profound impact on so many people. I would like them to know how pleased I am that I was given the opportunity to work with him and I will always remember him.

Vicki Hockey (nee Blinkhorn) I was saddened to hear of the death of Nick Levine. I was a student at Beacon from Sept 1986 until July 1992 and, for the majority of this time, had very little contact with him save for assemblies and seeing him occasionally around school and, to be honest, had no real opinion of him. This all changed when I took Law GCSE with him in the lower sixth. During his classes we got to know him as both an educator and a person. His classes were just fabulous. Interesting, engaging, full of thought provoking debates and discussions. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of those classes and gained so much more than just another GCSE. I would like to pass on my sincere condolences to his family and friends and to let them know the positive impact his enthusiasm and teaching had.

Janet Ashdown I am so sorry to hear of the death of Nick Levine. I have fond memories of him as Head of Beacon School. Even though I left Beacon school in 1977, I do remember he was often visible walking around school and always happy to chat with us. My experience as a Sixth Former was that he was very supportive and encouraged us to apply for further education in the sixth form taking our rightful place in the world.

Charity donations, if desired in memory of Mr Levine, may be made via the Tester & Jones tribute page until Friday 30th April. After that date, donations can of course be made directly to the charities.

The nominated charities are: Citizens Advice, The National Autistic Society, The Trussell Trust and Workaid.