Former Norfolk head teacher embarks on Palestine peace mission

Former Sheringham High School head teacher Mike Goodwin, who is heading out to Palestine on a human

Former Sheringham High School head teacher Mike Goodwin, who is heading out to Palestine on a human rights mission.Picture: KAREN BETHELL - Credit: Archant

A former Norfolk head teacher is heading out to occupied Palestine, as part of a human rights mission which will see him support children and adults living under the threat of violence and intimidation.

Mike Goodwin, who was deputy head at Thorpe St Andrew School, in Norwich, before taking on the headship at Sheringham High School in 1999, left Norfolk to lead a Quaker school in Oxfordshire in 2004, returning to his home at Aylsham after he retired two years ago.

Passionate about human rights, father-of-four Mr Goodwin was determined to put his new-found free time to good use and, inspired by his youngest daughter Tilly, who spent her gap year working on an agricultural project and teaching youngsters in the Palestinian city of Ramallah, he applied to become a human rights monitor in the troubled West Bank as part of a World Council of Churches programme.

'Relations between Israel and Palestine are not in a good place, so one doesn't travel optimistically, but, personally, it was about modelling peaceful behaviour, calling out human rights abuses and making a stand from my Quaker principles,' he explained.

His role, as an Ecumenical Accompanier (EA), will see him work with local peace groups to provide a protective presence and report violations of human rights.

This could include escorting Palestinian children across Israeli checkpoints on their way to school, or accompanying farmers as they tend to their crops and animals.

'I was determined to make an active contribution to peace-building once I retired,' he said. 'It would have been all too easy just to join campaign groups or write letters to MPs, but I feel strongly that I should try to work to make a difference.'

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EAs have also been present to support Palestinian people when homes and schools are demolished by the authorities.

'Just the act of being there might help prevent harassment and keep someone safe,' he explained. 'And if there are human rights abuses, EAs are able to witness and record that.'

Mr Goodwin, who still works part time as a schools inspector in the independent sector, will be giving talks on his experiences once he returns to Norfolk in three months' time.

'I was inspired by a talk by an EA I heard 15 years ago and, especially as a former head teacher, I feel advocacy and spreading the word is something I can do, ' he said.