I first met Nick Pett when he was appointed Deputy Head Teacher at my school, Saffron Walden County High (pic above). This was in the mid 1970s. He never actually taught me, but he became a good friend to me and my two sisters and also my parents.

Nick Pett

He was the kind of authority figure who immediately commanded respect. He had that unique mixture of fear and likeability. He was someone you could go do in a crisis and know you could trust him to keep whatever you told him to himself and to dispense very wise advice. In short, he was one of those people who made a difference to so many of his pupils. He treated you like an adult and wasn't afraid to make you confront some uncomfortable truths about yourself from time to time. He'd happily call a spade a shovel!

On Thursday my sister Sheena rang to tell me the sad news that Nick had died. He had been diagnosed with terminal cancer in mid December. Sheena went to visit him two days before he died. She was very close to him and he was a real mentor to her. 

Nick was a great friend to our parents too and he'd come to some of our family celebrations. I last saw him at our Father's funeral two years ago this week. He loved shooting the political breeze with me and I was so proud when he made the effort to come to the opening of Politico's 21 years ago. Whenever we caught up it was as if no time had elapsed at all. That's the sign of proper friendship.

When he left Saffron Walden County High Nick set himself up as an education consultant and he conducted inspections for OFSTED. He loved being in education and I just hope that he realised how many lives he touched and enhanced.

I know Gillian and his three sons are going to miss him hugely. All I can tell them is Nick achieved what he was put on this earth to do. Make lives better. Not a bad epitaph, is it?