5 Aug '13

News Jim Andrews obituary

In 1970 my friend and colleague Jim Andrews, who has died aged 81, became the first headteacher at what is now Alsager school. He inherited a modestly achieving secondary modern as it turned comprehensive, in a fairly prosperous Cheshire dormitory town. On his arrival he saw his first task as persuading parents who had previously sent their offspring to grammar and independent schools in neighbouring towns that their children's education would be safe in his hands. How right they were to trust him: O-level results were immediately excellent and many of the first cohort went to Oxbridge colleges.

Consequently his impact on the town far exceeded education. Housing estates grew as people moved to work in the area, safe in the knowledge that their offspring were guaranteed a first-class education irrespective of their ability. Many of his staff felt that local estate agents should have offered him a retainer – but he would certainly have refused. Meanwhile the school grew to hold 1,700 pupils in a town of only 15,000 inhabitants.

Jim was born in Bolton during the depression and was a lifelong fan of Bolton Wanderers and Lancashire Cricket Club. He never forgot the poverty of his childhood (his parents could not afford to buy him football boots) and was a lifelong socialist. He began reading the Guardian as a child and continued to be passionate about its liberal values. His grammar school education enabled him to escape the poverty trap and he was determined to give the same opportunity to the thousands of children who found themselves under his wing.

Under his stewardship, Alsager's staff room became a great hunting ground for other schools and many of his colleagues found themselves promoted to senior positions elsewhere. He gave me my first job and his pleasure in seeing younger staff prosper was self-evident. No child dared to question his manifest authority, yet he was compassionate, wise and a great listener. "Respect" was written through him like a stick of Bolton rock. He retired in 1993.

He loved the outdoors: sailing and walking were deep passions often followed by a pint and a malt whisky.

A devoted family man, intensely proud of the achievements of his children, he is survived by his wife, Kath; daughters, Alison and Fiona; and grandchildren, Ben, Edward and Ghyll.

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