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News > OP updates > Obituaries > David Willis Aylmore BSc PhD FRIC

David Willis Aylmore BSc PhD FRIC

Our thanks to former Head of Chemistry, Mike Taylor, for this tribute to his friend and colleague 'Doc' Aylmore who passed away in September
David Aylmore
David Aylmore

David Willis Aylmore BSc PhD FRIC
26th January 1935 to 12th September 2021

It was with great sadness that the school learnt recently of the death of David Aylmore on September 12th at the age of 86 after a long illness. David was appointed to the teaching staff in 1972 by Coll McDonald, as Head of Science & Head of Chemistry, having previously taught at Varndean School in Brighton. He later became the school’s first Director of Studies, a position that he held until his retirement in July 1995, working in that capacity under both David Richards and Tony Evans as Headmaster.  

David was an inspiring, exacting teacher who demanded high standards from his students, but he was also a very caring individual who worked tirelessly on their behalf and took a genuine interest in their futures. He  was always keen to use the latest technology to enhance his lessons, and he earned the genuine respect from those he taught – pupils wanted to do well, and through his guidance and support an estimated 300 A level students at PGS gained  A grades, at a time when the proportion of these awarded nationally was only around 5 to 7%.

Under David’s leadership science flourished at PGS but it was not just in an academic sense.  The science block had been opened in 1957 and by the mid-1970s the original light green paintwork in the labs was looking distinctly tired.  Money was short for redecoration so David suggested to his colleagues in the department that if the Bursar agreed, the redecoration could be done as an ‘in-house’ project, with one lab being redecorated at the end of each summer term. And so it was that teachers duly swopped lab coats for overalls in what must have been one of the most unusual team building activities ever undertaken within a department! 

David took over responsibility for constructing the school timetable after John Simpson left the school, and under Tony Evans’ headship he continued as Director of Studies with further responsibilities that included the oversight of option subjects, that increased markedly throughout the 1980s.  For many years including after retirement David was also a senior A level examiner for a rival exam board, not that used by PGS, a role that he enjoyed and which allowed him to remain at the cutting edge of curriculum developments.

David was born in Littlehampton and at age 11 won a place at Chichester High School for boys, a well-respected boys’ grammar school. It was here that his interests in science and chemistry were encouraged and developed, and after A levels he went to Exeter University to read Chemistry.  David stayed in Exeter for his PhD into the corrosion of metals, and this was followed by further work at the National Research Council of Canada in Ottawa. On his return from Canada he applied for a job to teach chemistry at Varndean School, before applying to PGS nine years later.

David was essentially a rather private individual but he had a lovely sense of humour, in many respects he was a gentle giant who never had to raise his voice to pupils, and with whom he established good professional relationships based on mutual trust and respect.  He was also an extremely modest man, who never sought to promote himself or his abilities, but who nevertheless set himself the highest professional standards in all aspects of his career.  

To relax, David was passionate about cricket and he was also known to enjoy a good John Wayne movie!  After retirement David was also able to undertake a significant amount of travel with his sister, including a whole world cruise and a trip across the United States, but sadly in recent years and with his health declining this was no longer possible.

On a personal note I owe David an incalculable debt, not only was he instrumental in my appointment in 1975, but he nurtured my career very patiently despite all my initial mistakes and then supported my transition to become Head of Chemistry in 1985 when the role of Director of Studies was amplified. 

Of all the tributes received at Facebook when news of his passing was released, I think these few comments sum up perfectly David’s approach to teaching:  “….The Doc had a unique combination of skills in his teaching style being gentle, efficient and precise while expecting and fostering a high standard of learning…..Reflecting back his classes felt more like tutorials than lectures~ “ the guide by the side rather than the sage on the stage” ( probably misquoted). His style is one I attempt to mimic in my medical education role. Improved my predicted A level grade and helped me into my career. Very grateful and my condolences to his family………I found Doc had a knack of making learning seem rather effortless (... perhaps a bit too effortless for some!), and yet his authority was absolute…….”

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