THE man who taught Olympian Christian Malcolm in PE is to retire this summer after 21 years at a Newport secondary school.

Steve Constance, from Pontypool, joined the then Hartridge High School – now Llanwern High School – in the early 1990s as the head of the PE department, and remembers setting up an indoor high jump for a PE class one day, only for Malcolm to jump two feet higher than any of his classmates.

“He was a good all-round athlete and could have been a footballer,” said Mr Constance, 58.

He also remembers fondly the old school’s unofficial mascot, a young sheepdog named Scruffy.

“When I first came here I was out on the fields every day,” he explained. “In those days there was a stray dog and everybody called him Scruff.

“The children would give him bits of their lunch and he would frequently walk into assembly and just sit down,” said Mr Constance, who has two teenage sons with wife Lesley, lead midwife at Nevill Hall Hospital.

“One cold night in January I was leaving school at about 4.30pm when it started to get dark. Stood there in the lashing rain was Scruffy, looking at me. I said, ‘are you coming Scruffy dog?’ and he bounded into the car. From that day on he was my dog and I had him for 13 years.

“A generation of children will remember that dog!” he said.

A keen surfer, Mr Constance spent his time after university surfing in the USA and lived for 15 years in California and Florida, playing rugby and training athletes. He returned home to Wales in the 1990s and accepted the first post he applied for – at Hartridge, where he has stayed, later moving on to head up their social education and careers service. But his love of surfing and travel has continued, taking him around the world.

Another memory from his time at school was taking an outdoor pursuits trip to the Brecon Beacons when a pupil asked what some dots on a map were. Joking, Mr Constance said they were sheep, and was surprised when the children believed him.

When asked what he’ll miss most about Llanwern High, he said: “Mainly it’s the kids, I enjoy talking to them and they enjoy talking to me. And the staff are terrific.”