A headteacher who provided ‘visionary leadership’ to one of Plymouth’s best schools for almost 20 years has died at the age of 92. Gavin Peck, who was headmaster at Devonport High School for Boys from 1975 to 1993, oversaw the school’s expansion as well as negotiating changes including the change from O levels to GCSEs and the introduction of the National Curriculum in his career.
A keen traveler, he also worked hard to establish a residential center in Uzel, in the Brittany area of France, which saw more than 300 boys every year enjoy an insight into French school life as well as activities such as kayaking, orienteering and horse riding . Mr Peck’s widow, Diana, said they would have celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in August of next year, and said during holidays he was a keen amateur artist, carrying a sketch book with him when they traveled.
She said: “He was 92 and also suffering from pain in his legs and other things, but we had been 69 years married, so I will certainly miss him. The anniversary would have been August next year, but we didn’t get there, I’m afraid. “
Mr Peck was Christened as John – without warning – by his father, who was Rector and Canon of Norwich Cathedral, and who nonetheless went on to call him Gavin, which his wife said he was referred to by everyone else ‘except the NHS’. A graduate of Cambridge University, where he read history, his abilities di lui also saw him serve in the Intelligence Corps during his national service.
Mr Peck also went on to gain a teaching qualification and began a career which saw him spend 15 years in Kent as house master and Deputy Head at Cranbrook School. He twice stood for Parliament as the Liberal candidate for the Ashford constituency, but saw the Conservative MP hold the seat on both occasions.
Having been married in 1953, he and Mrs Peck moved to Pontefract in West Yorkshire in order to further his career, as he became headmaster of King’s School, in Pontefract. But after five years, they were keen to live further south and he took the opportunity to move to Plymouth, where he became the seventh headmaster of DHSB.
His leadership saw the school not only survive the reorganization of grammar schools in the 1980s, but expand into all six blocks of the former military hospital. In a tribute on the DHSB Old Boys Facebook page, former Deputy Head Ron Faulkner is quoted as saying: “This remarkable man will be sadly missed.”
Mr Faulkner also said: “It is fair to say that Mr Peck’s energies were concentrated foremost on what is best for DHSB pupils. Initiatives were carefully thought out and discussed initially with Senior staff to ensure the ideas were viable and sustainable. “
After Mr Peck retired in 1993 he and his wife were able to travel, and bought a holiday home in France, which also meant they good reason to visit one of their three sons, who had married a French woman. Mr Peck also had a daughter, and he leaves 11 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. Mrs Peck said the couple spent early years traveling around Europe in a campervan, but were able to venture further afield after he retired.
During travels to far-flung places including China and India, Mr Peck also enjoyed putting his artistic skill to use. Mr Peck’s funeral takes place on June 7 at 11am at Emmanuel Church on Mannamead Road, followed by a wake at the Duke of Cornwall Hotel.
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