Head of Modern Foreign Languages, Mr Robert Nicholls, will be leaving Brooke Weston in August to go on a two-year placement to Africa, a trip that has been years in the planning. Mr Nicholls and his wife, Linda, will work as VSO volunteers in South Sudan, a country that only came into existence in July 2011 and which desperately needs teacher training. The average class size is 129 students!
Mr and Mrs Nicholls have been earmarked by VSO as teaching advisers. Mr Nicholls will be responsible for visiting 46 schools in one district and Mrs Nicholls will work in the Ministry of Education at regional level, charged with encouraging the education of girls.
Mr Nicholls first went to Africa as a young man when he spent two years as an English teacher with VSO at the Higher Teachers’ Training Institute in Omdurman, Sudan, immediately after leaving university. Later he returned to Africa with his wife and children to work initially as Deputy Field Director for Oxfam in Kenya and then as a Field Director with responsibility for Oxfam’s programmes in four West African countries. The couple have been planning their return trip for many years.
VSO has challenged Mr Nicholls to raise £3,000 as a contribution to the organisation’s work and so Mr Nicholls, known for his eclectic collection of neckwear, is selling off his numerous ties as part of his fundraising efforts.
The ties, some of which come from places as far away as Mexico, Vietnam, Texas and China, are being displayed in the Modern Languages corridor, and staff and students are invited to make bids on them, with the highest bidder winning the neckwear. Mr Nicholls bought many of his ties from charity shops over a number of years, and, in order to guarantee there is no sartorial repetition, he starts each school year with all his ties in one box and transfers them to an empty one when he has worn them once.
‘I say to the students that they never see the same tie twice in a school year. Yes, I do have enough to have a different tie every school day. Over the years I have tried to get more outlandish ones and some of them are now really strange. It is ridiculous but it amuses me and it’s amazing how many students enjoy trying to catch me out wearing the same tie twice.’
Mr Nicholls has a favourite tie; a present from his tutees four years ago and originally embroidered with the words ‘8S Rocks’! As members of 8S progressed through the school, the tie was modified each year and it now reads ‘11S Rocks’! Mr Nicholls said: ‘I won’t get rid of that one unless the tutor group decides it wants to bid for it. There are one or two others that I will keep for sentimental reasons but I can’t see myself needing nearly 300 ties once I retire!’