My teaching career began in 1960 and took me to schools in the north and south of England, and from a state comprehensive via a selective grammar school to a sixth form college. I was first and foremost a teacher and my job was to help young people learn. My discipline was Geography, a wonderfully broad subject that allowed learning to spread across the arts-science divide and to roam through issues, disciplines and problems of many kinds. It was exploration and discovery and students learned as much about themselves and how to learn as they did about “people and places.”
In 1987 I took up the Headship of Bury Grammar School (Girls) and for 12 years led a happy and successful community of 1,200 youngsters who ranged in age from four to 18, and almost 200 staff of both academics and non-academics.
Bury is a small (80,000) industrial town just north of Manchester. It is a diverse community with areas of prosperity and poverty, estates with new businesses and many long established firms, decaying Victorian housing and fine modern residential suburbs. The community is mixed with strong Jewish and Muslim groups. The Grammar School works comfortably with the 14 state high schools in an atmosphere of cooperation.
From 1980 to 1986 I was a member of the National Council of the Geographical Association and until 1986, an examiner in Geography for the Northern Examination Board. Bury was one of the nine project areas of Education 2000, and the Grammar School worked with the local state schools in promoting curriculum development, staff training and community ownership of the learning opportunities for the young people in town. A member of Girl’s Schools’ Association Council from 1990 to 1997, I served on the Education Committee and co-chaired the Joint University Working Party. I represented the GSA on the teachers’ forum of the National Curriculum Council, which became the SCAA and then the SEAC.
After 12 years of headship I retired at the end of August 1998. Bury Grammar School had made a mark amongst the best schools in the country. It was consistently ranked in the top 1 percent of all schools in the United Kingdom for GCSE exams at age 16. Our pupils were sought after and valued by Universities and Colleges. Bury was known to be a forward looking school, choosing what it did and how it taught by being prepared to look widely at practice from all over the country. Its curriculum was wide and the experiences of the girls at all ages were many and varied. No less important, Bury Grammar School was part of the community.
Since my retirement I have become a fellow of the 21st Century Learning Initiative. I am particularly interested in the implications of new understandings about learning and brain development on the role of the school. In 1999 I worked with Cambridgeshire County Council, the special needs teachers of Durham, the education officers of British Museums, and the Local Education Authority Hammersmith and Fulham where I am working with the Initiative as a tutor for a group of Primary Headteachers. I still find time to work with schools as an Inspector, running the occasional course and acting as a consultant.
Retirement is great and full of opportunities.