Teacher who 'always wanted the best for pupils' dies aged 82

Sydney Smith, a former head of English at the now-closed Charles Burrell High School, Thetford, has died aged 82

Sydney Smith, a former head of English at the now-closed Charles Burrell High School, Thetford, has died aged 82 - Credit: FAMILY / ARCHANT

A retired teacher who strived to help pupils achieve their dreams has died aged 82. 

Sydney 'Syd' Smith retired as head of English at the former Charles Burrell High School in Thetford more than 25 years ago and is still fondly remembered.

His wife Sandra Smith, who goes by her middle name Jane, said she had received dozens of cards to their Croxton home from well-wishers. 

"He was always worried about the children’s welfare and wanted to do the best for them while helping them to achieve.

“He really enjoyed teaching and he especially loved the drama aspect, which would often come into his English classes. He also had a great sense of humour."

Many of his former pupils have paid tribute to Sydney Smith

Many of his former pupils have paid tribute to Sydney Smith - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

Mr Smith was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, on May 15, 1939. He moved to England aged nine and lived with his grandmother and uncle following his parents' separation. 

He attended Bungay Grammar School and was told by his schoolmaster that he would be going to St Mark and St John in Chelsea to train to be a teacher. 

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“He wasn’t really given the choice,” Mrs Smith, 77, said. “He was just happy to go along with it as it gave him a direction to follow.” 

While there, Mr Smith trained to be a religious education and English teacher. He graduated aged 21 and his first teaching job saw him return to Norfolk to Old Buckenham Secondary Modern.  

In 1966, he completed a diploma in drama at Newcastle University. The couple had been married for just over a year, after meeting at an amateur dramatics club, when they made the move up north. By 1967, they decided to return and Mr Smith continued teaching at Old Buckenham. 

The Charles Burrell High School, now the Charles Burrell Centre, in Thetford

The Charles Burrell High School, now the Charles Burrell Centre, in Thetford pictured before it closed - Credit: ARCHANT

Around this time, he applied for head of English at Charles Burrell, now run as a centre in the town. A successful candidate, he took up the position in 1969 and stayed there until retiring aged 57. 

The couple had three children; Brett (now deceased) in 1970, Kirsty in 1973 and Karys in 1976. 

Mrs Smith added: “He loved playing golf and we enjoyed going on cruises and holidays. Australia was a favourite. He also loved family life. It was very important to him.” 

Mr Smith’s funeral took place on November 16. Donations were raised in his memory for Prostate Cancer UK, a condition he was diagnosed with 10 years previously.  

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