Obituary: Long-serving teacher dies unexpectedly aged 78
- Credit: Denise Bradley
For many young people, the opportunity to become a professional footballer is a thing of dreams.
But incredibly for Christopher Allen, a former deputy head, he turned down the once-in-a-lifetime chance to pursue his passion for teaching.
And with a career spanning more than four decades, it was evident he made the right choice – cementing a deep-rooted belief that every child has the potential to achieve.
Born in 1943, Christopher David Allen arrived in the world in a coastguard cottage at Winterton-On-Sea, near Great Yarmouth.
He came from a close-knit family and attended the local schools in the area. As a child, he enjoyed “good old-fashioned fun” such as writing down car number plates as they drove through the village.
After passing his 11+ examination, he attended Great Yarmouth Grammar School where he is said to have “worked really hard and did well”.
Following this, he completed his A-Levels, and being a great sports fan, he decided to pursue a career in teaching physical education.
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Mr Allen spent the academic year of 1963-64 teaching the subject at the then newly-opened Alderman Peel High School on the north Norfolk coast in Wells, before embarking on his teacher training at Worcester.
It was around this time when he was given a rare opportunity by Coventry City football manager, Jimmy Hill.
Mr Allen, a former player for England Under-15s, was invited by Mr Hill to play in goal during the sixties, while also undergoing his teacher training, and was offered a position as a professional. While Mr Allen would have liked to continue with both, he was eventually given an ultimatum; football or teaching. It is fair to say he made a good choice.
During his time at Worcester, he met his future wife, Christine.
They married in 1965 and had twin daughters, Victoria and Elizabeth, affectionately known as Vicky and Lizzy, in the July. By September 1965, Mr Allen was about to begin a new teaching role at Attleborough High School and moved his family into a school teacher’s house in nearby Kenninghall.
Daughter Lizzy Abbot described her childhood as “a good one”.
She said: “Our dad was fun, had a dry wit, and was known for being strict but really, he was fair. You always knew where you were with him.
“He had an allotment and every Saturday morning the family would go there and tend to runner beans and potatoes. He was not a natural at it and did not enjoy it but because he spent a lot of time on the allotment, he became very good at growing produce.
“Most weekends, we’d pile into our Mini and we would be often somewhere in Norfolk to watch dad play sport and have a picnic.
“We’d often enjoy the countryside and climb trees.
“He had his hands full with us twins. It was really good fun.”
Mr Allen was one of the original members of staff at Attleborough High School when it opened. Originally the boys' PE teacher, he went on to become head of the department.
On the day the school was opened in October 1965, a photograph was taken of all the staff in the school car park. Unfortunately, Mr Allen did not appear in the photograph as he had been accidentally locked in an art room cupboard.
He also taught science and moved into pastoral work, becoming a head of year. He went on to become head of the pastoral system and the school’s assistant head at the school until his retirement in 2002.
He was very proud of the fact he had taught sport to Justin and John Fashanu, who both went on to be professional footballers after starting at Norwich City, and he later appeared in a television documentary about Justin's career.
Mrs Abbot added: “He would do lots of running around to help get kids doing extra activities.
“During the summer holidays he would get the school minibus and go around the villages to Old Buckenham and he would teach children to swim. He really opened the school up.
“He instigated having a head boy and girl at the school, as well as introducing a prom long before other schools.
“He was also keen on pastoral care, introduced the Duke of Edinburgh Award to the school, and accompanied many school trips to Holt Hall in north Norfolk.
“He was really thrilled when he saw pupils get to where they wanted to be as he believed that every child had the potential to achieve.
“But he knew it was his time to leave when a pupil told him that their grandmother had sent her regards because he had also taught her previously.”
Mr Allen stayed at the school until his retirement in 2002. After this, he worked in supply teaching roles but was “shocked” at the bureaucracy of the profession.
A final important string to his bow was the exceptional ability he showed for sports across the board. From darts, pool and bowls, to cricket, golf and football, even trampolining, he became both a member and captain of many sports teams.
As a result of this Mrs Allen, who died four years ago, was often dubbed a “sports widow”.
Mrs Abbot added: “He was a Norfolk boy through and through. A solid Norfolk chap. He never expected anyone to do something that he wasn’t prepared to do himself.”
Paying tribute to him, Attleborough Academy’s assistant principal, Simon Davies, said: “As well as being an outstanding teacher, he will be remembered by hundreds of former students for the care and support he gave to everyone.
“He was also a wonderful mentor to younger members of staff, always willing to share his experience, opinion and to give advice.
“His late wife Christine was a much-loved teacher at Attleborough Junior School for many years. The contribution the Allen family made to the community of Attleborough cannot be underestimated.
“A consummate professional and a lovely man, Chris will be much missed.”
Mr Allen died unexpectedly at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital on March 4, aged 78. As well as his daughters, he leaves behind his grandchildren and son-in-law, James. His funeral took place on April 2.
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