Tributes pour in for first ever Asian headteacher in the country

An inspirational Sikh teacher who touched the lives of thousands of children in the Black Country has died.

Sukhdev Singh Mangat died on New Year's Eve
Sukhdev Singh Mangat died on New Year's Eve

Sukhdev Singh Mangat was the country's first Asian headteacher, whose legacy can be seen in Wolverhampton's City of Sanctuary status.

Tributes from staff and children from his former schools poured after he died in his sleep on New Year's Eve, aged 87.

Mr Mangat taught at Willenhall Comprehensive School, Ashmore Park Junior School and West Park Primary School, where he was made headteacher in 1979 becoming the first Asian member of the National Association of Headteachers.

Born in Rampur, India, in 1934, his family had to flee Pakistan during the partition in 1947 as his father had been posted there with Indian Army.

He excelled in academia achieves two degrees in English and Science before working as a university lecturer.

After he married Randhir in 1957, the couple decided to move to England in 1960, where Sukhdev began working in a foundry where he had to cut off his hair and was forced to stop wearing his turban.

However, he soon got the necessary qualifications to teach in England.

Son Mohnie said: "He got his first job in teaching in 1962 at Willenhall Comprehensive as a physics teacher. When he got the job, he was told by the head of the education authority 'You are the first (Asian), what happens now is up to you'.

"He made a profound impact on multi-cultural education in Wolverhampton, integrating the school into the community, and the community into the school which is a legacy that continues today."

Mr Mangat decided to switch to primary education and began teaching at Ashmore Park Junior School in Wolverhampton and the became deputy head of Dudley Road School.

In 1979 he was appointed headteacher of struggling West Park Primary School, Wolverhampton,

Mohnie said: "West Park was not doing well and many thought he was set up to fail and turning it around was an impossible job. The school was made up of over 80 per cent minorities.

"He had a lot to do to bring some pride and sense of community into the school."

Elaine Dovydaitis worked with Mr Mangat and is now assistant headteacher at West Park Primary School.

She said: "The one big thing which Mr Mangat stood for, and is still a big part of the school ethos, is the school was very much a part of the local community, and the community was welcomed to be part of the school.

"We have built on this legacy and the school was the first to be a School of Sanctuary in the city, welcoming children, and their families, from all over the world."

Current headteacher Briony Jones said Mr Mangat was "still spoken with fondness" at the school.

Mr Mangat retired in 1996 and enjoyed travelling during his retirement. His wife Randir died in 2005 and he is survived by three children, four grandchildren and one great grandchild.

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