AN INFLUENTIAL assistant headteacher and founder of a pioneering partnership between schools in Menston and South Africa is to retire after 35 years of service

David Geldart, senior assistant headteacher and director of physical education and sport at St Mary's, has gained national and international acclaim for his strategic and practical work in education.

He has spoken at international conferences throughout the world, and has held a wide variety of key public appointments developing national policy and strategy with the Department of Education, Department of Health, Department of Culture, Media and Sport, Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, Sport England and the Big Lottery.

In 1995, following a highly successful four-year period serving on the ‘Health of the Nation' task force, Mr Geldart was invited by the Secretary of State to become one of the founder members of Sport England's National Lottery panel.

Following a further term on the panel, the Secretary of State appointed him to the Sport England Board, where he served for six years. His time at Sport England saw dramatic improvements in national sport development and provision, from grass roots through to elite level.

Former Sport England chairman, Lord Patrick Carter, said: "David's contribution to the development of sport in this country cannot be overstated. He has given 12 years of excellent service to Sport England and to sport in England."

He was later invited by the South African department of recreation and sport to advise on the development of the School Sport Mass Participation Programme based in South Africa's 18 most deprived areas.

David undertook this assignment on the basis of also being allowed to establish a school link with St Mary's and one of the South African schools in the project.

He has established the Bambisanani Partnership between St Mary's and Mnyakanya School in Kwa Zulu Natal during the past nine years, using sport as a catalyst to promote international understanding, education, health and leadership.

The initiative has been described as inspirational and has gained international acclaim, including praise from Prince William, the President of South Africa, the British Council, Youth Sport Trust, Diana Award Trust, Nelson Mandela Children’s Foundation, UNICEF and the Vatican.

Under David’s leadership, St Mary’s has become one of the most successful sports colleges in the country, gaining international recognition for its work in physical education and sport.

David has been responsible for bringing more than £4 million of revenue funding to the sports college and partner schools during the past 15 years, and more than £1 million in capital funding for community sports facilities.

He is currently working on a £1 million community sport facility and development programme with High Royds Sports Association.

St Mary's headteacher, Darren Beardsley, said: "David Geldart has made an outstanding contribution to St Mary's, Menston, as well as the local, national and international community during the past 35 years."