HIGHLY respected former Sandown High School teacher Paul Thatcher has died at the age of 71.

Born at home in Godshill in 1948, his father was the local village policeman.

He went to the village primary school and at an early age his academic abilities were recognised.

He went on to Sandown Grammar School and sailed through both GCE and A Levels.

In 1966 he gained a place at Hartford College, Oxford, to study history, and graduated in 1969.

He began a PGCE teaching course but in January 1970 he took up a one-year VSO posting at the Government Secondary School in Zaria, Nigeria — a country that was to be his home on and off for the next 15 years.

He wrote a textbook on the history of West Africa, which became a standard text there.

He returned to the Isle of Wight in 1985, taking up a temporary teaching post at Ventnor Middle School before moving on to a permanent position as history teacher at the same site as his own secondary education — Sandown High School.

As with his African students, pupils found him an inspirational teacher.

He quickly took on the role of deputy head of Yellow House, and then the role that arguably defined his career — head of Green House.

Teacher Steve Hoyle, who worked alongside Mr Thatcher for 12 years, said: "He wanted all youngsters to aspire to greater things, to compete and most of all to succeed.

"So many owe their careers and education to Paul. He regularly managed to get young people into Oxbridge and other good universities with his mentoring and guidance.

"But it wasn’t just the academics who loved him. Children felt noticed, appreciated, and inspired by him as a person.

"He loved young people doing whatever they could do well, be it drama, music, or sport and gave everyone his 100 per cent backing."

Mr Thatcher was also known for his encyclopaedic knowledge of the Island and its footpaths.

He died at Southampton General on February 27 after suffering from a short but aggressive lymphoma.