Sir Tim Brighouse (1950 – 1958)

Alumnus, Sir Tim Brighouse

In the autumn of 1950 I was a school phobic. We lived in the midlands and I had just started at a prestigious grammar school. I hated it so much I was sick every morning and cried myself to sleep. As we had school on Saturday mornings, I only slept properly and without fear once a week. Then my dad changed jobs and we moved to Lowestoft where we lived on Oulton Road just beyond the Norman pub. At the Midlands school I was just getting used to my misery and thought I was in for another instalment of hell now that we had moved to a new school. My older brother told me he would meet me at break on the first morning, which was the Monday after half term, but after that I was on my own.

I didn’t bother meeting him. From the moment I arrived my form mates were welcoming as were the teachers. The school in the Midlands I remember in black and white but the school in Yarmouth Rd in colour; the former a nightmare but the latter full of delightful people who changed my life. Invidious to pick out names, but I remember vividly Miss Fordham and Mrs Hudson and I had a crush on Miss Lazenby. Dan Maddocks knew I was keen but never very good at sport. Emerson and Emsden, Wilkinson and Gibbs, Rymer and Finbow, Goody and Dowson, but above all Larry Lamb and Spoof Spalding changed my life. The school really taught me to think for myself and by their example the teachers made it clear that we should act for others. I realised that schools and teachers could change lives and I decided I wanted to do the same thing and weave magic as they had done for me. But I never forgot the school in the Midlands where nobody smiled and we changed our seating positions according to how well we were doing every fortnight and where fear stalked the corridors. I was fascinated that schools could be so different.

I expect that is why I decided in the end to try to influence schools myself by becoming, first, a teacher, then a deputy head before, by accident rather than design, an education officer in Wales and Buckinghamshire. Then I enjoyed the enormous privilege of being responsible for education in Oxfordshire and Birmingham. In between those two jobs I founded a Centre for Successful Schools when Professor of Education at Keele University. I ended my full-time career as Commissioner for London schools. But I haven’t really stopped yet. You see ever since that first autumn day in 1950 in what is now Ormiston Denes Academy, I knew that schools could make a huge difference to the lives of those in them. I have visited and known well in that time well over 2,000 schools. I am still learning more about teaching, learning and school leadership and organisation.

Of course the fun for me has been being employed in jobs I have loved doing. So I have always felt under an obligation to try to get better at what I did. In a way, my hobby was my job. I lived for it. There’s no more important job than to be a teacher or a headteacher. They make the climate of our lives and our futures, as they seek to unlock our minds and open the closed chambers of our hearts. How schools are led and organised affect the likelihood of teachers succeeding in doing that. Ormiston Denes is embarking on a new chapter and deserves all our support as the staff seek to change for the better the present generation of young Lowestoftians.

Tim Brighouse

Sir Tim Brighouse was knighted in the 2009 New Year’s Honours.

February 2014

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