Lincoln Christ's Hospital School

Lincoln Christ's Hospital School
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Dr Joyce Eva Skinner CBE

A Personal Tribute

From the Garton Archive at Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School

Occasional Paper No 34

by

Peter Harrod

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 A Photograph from the Family Album

Joyce Skinner was a pupil at Lincoln Christ’s Hospital Girls’ High School (LHS) from 1930 to 1938. She was described by Professor Garton as ‘…one of the most distinguished alumnae of the School’.

This article is a tribute to the life and work of Joyce, and it focuses in particular on her early life in Lincoln which shaped her attitudes and values, her career at LHS, and the immense contribution she made during her life to her home city of Lincoln. It draws heavily on tributes given following her death in 2010 by Eileen Baker, then Principal of Bishop Grosseteste University College (BG), and several of her former colleagues at BG including John Wyatt, Humphrey Taylor, John Bannister, Ian Fraser, John Davies and Trevor Kerry. I am also indebted to the Archivist at what is now Bishop Grosseteste University, Guen Moyes for lending me her file on Joyce, which includes her own detailed compilation of notes on Joyce Skinner. For the section on Joyce’s career at LHS I have drawn liberally from her own account of her schooldays in the book which she co-authored with her sister Edna, Growing up Downhill.

Joyce Skinner was born on 5 September 1920, the elder of two daughters born to Eva and Matthew Skinner. Her early life was strongly influenced by the working class environment in which she grew up at a time of high unemployment in Lincoln. Her father was a skilled machine operator, but found himself out of work on three separate occasions for periods of up to one year. It was her mother who apparently held the family together, and despite the hardship it is clear from Joyce’s book that her childhood was predominantly a happy and enriching one.

 

 

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The Skinner Family home on Drake Street, now student bed-sit land

Photograph by Catherine Forbes

In her highly readable book Growing up Downhill (Skinner & Purchase, 1989), co-authored with her sister Edna, it was recalled that life at number 33 Drake Street (waggishly called ‘Duck’ Street by her father, and pictured above as it is now) was hard but mostly very happy and, despite the poverty, very rich. Rooms were lit largely by gas lights, and the sisters went to bed by candlelight for many years. The insides of bedroom windows often froze at night during the winter, and there was only one toilet in the washhouse at the bottom of the garden. There was usually only one coal fire, situated in the living room in the house, which also heated the water. Although the house was rented, the Skinners (or their landlord) took in lodgers. On one occasion, at the time of the Lincolnshire Handicap race which used to be run on the West Common Racecourse, there were two stable lads and a stout and jolly bookmaker known as Uncle Tat. Sleeping arrangements must have been quite cosy in that small three-bedroom terraced house! For an insight into life in a working-class environment, the book is warmly recommended, and there are copies in local libraries and two are available for borrowing from the Garton Archive.

Joyce began her school career in 1925 at St Faith’s CE School on West Parade, and was one of only six ‘Municipal Scholars’ in the city to be awarded a Christ’s Hospital Scholarship to LHS in 1930. She obtained her BA (Hons) Oxon degree in 1941, and then spent a further year training as a teacher at the Oxford University Department of Education. She was awarded her MA in 1945, and various honorary degrees from several institutions including a DLitt from the University of Hull in 1997. She was made a CBE in the New Year’s Honours List in 1975 for services to education.

We are fortunate indeed in having a detailed account of Joyce’s years at LHS in Growing up Downhill. The following is an attempt to provide a flavour of her time at LHS which she describes as ‘eight important years’, against the background of the School and indeed the education system during the 1930s.

Her first impression was of the headmistress, Miss Savill, whom she described as ‘small and rather dumpy with very small hands and feet and straight sandy hair knotted at the back of her head’. She went on to remark on Miss Savill’s friendly face, small sharp nose and bright blue eyes that were ‘often amused before the rest of her face broke into a smile’. According to Joyce she was never very good at talking to small children; perhaps not the ideal characteristic for a headmistress!

Most of the local girls dashed home on foot or bicycle during the one and a half hour lunch break, but the Lindsey, Kesteven and Welton scholarship girls either brought a packed lunch, or ate in a small dining room, which none of the day girls ever saw. It was clearly quite a rite of passage going from the primary school to the high school, and facing new subjects such as French and Latin, and daily homework routines. There were also the additional challenges of much older girls, some of whom were prefects, a whole new experience in school uniform, and different terminology such as ‘forms’ instead of ‘classes’, ‘mistresses’, not ‘teachers’,’ break’, not ‘playtime’, and games up the hill on Nettleham Road. Everyone seemed to speak in a ‘posh’ accent, which clearly affected the confidence of a young girl from a working-class background in the west end of Lincoln. It must have seemed like an alien world.

Joyce’s phenomenal memory recalled the curriculum of LHS which, like other girls’ grammar schools of its time, concentrated on Mathematics, French, Scripture, English, Science, Art, Sewing, History and Geography, Physical Education, and Latin from the Upper Third. LHS was not large enough, nor sufficiently well-equipped, to offer Home Economics, Pottery, Weaving, a full range of sciences, a second modern language or Greek.

Perhaps surprisingly to those of us who knew her well in later years, Joyce was quite a sportswoman, playing netball, tennis, rounders and even cricket because of an enthusiast on the staff. Her greatest sporting achievement was to captain the first eleven Hockey team from her pivotal position as centre-half, which entitled her to wear a special and much-coveted striped hatband.

With reference to the termly grind of examinations, most readers will be able to identify with Joyce’s description of the process of reading out the results. The girls sat cross-legged on the floor of the hall and listened for what seemed like an eternity as the form lists were read out. At Lincoln School I was invariably relieved when I was languishing in mid-table, as there was always some wag who would seize on you if you were either in the upper or lower echelons! With typical modesty Joyce claims to have done ‘reasonably well’ in the School Certificate. Surprisingly, in view of her later academic successes, she only received one prize at LHS, and that was in her final year at the School. Appropriately enough this was for History, which she went on to read at Oxford.

Like most schools of its type LHS was divided into a number of Houses, with names associated with the history of the Lincoln diocese, such as Remigius, St Hugh and Grosseteste. Joyce was delighted to be in King House, named after Bishop Edward King who had confirmed her mother. A striking statue of the Bishop in the act of benediction enjoys pride of place in the South Transept of Lincoln Cathedral, and it is said that you can actually see his finger moving if you look very carefully! Perhaps that is one reason why Joyce wrote that he looked like a real person! In her final year at LHS Joyce earned the coveted title of Captain of King House.

Discipline was maintained through a system of rewards and punishments, the former centring on marks, shields and ‘stars’, whilst ‘detention’ took the form of half an hour of supervised extra work after school. Joyce described detention as a ‘nuisance, but no great hardship unless it involved missing a house match or some other enjoyable out-of-school activity’. With hindsight, and the experience of being a teacher herself, she actually sympathised with the mistresses on duty who had to supervise a group of disgruntled youngsters who probably felt aggrieved that justice had not been done, and that it was simply ‘not fair’! I recall similar feelings when a whole form had been detained because the actual culprits could not be identified. Natural justice frequently followed in the playground! Unlike boys’, and some girls’ schools of the time, the cane was never used, and the ultimate punishment for the particularly recalcitrant pupils was to have to stand outside Miss Savill’s office fervently hoping that she was too busy to spend time investigating the nature and extent of the crime.

Of the twenty-five or so teaching staff members, Joyce wrote that they were a ‘civilised but formidable group’. On looking back she was not sure whether, with one or two notable exceptions, they were particularly good teachers, and some of the older established ones apparently hardly exerted themselves. However, they were in the main well-read, interesting and ‘faintly eccentric’! Betraying her feminist leanings Joyce described the hard struggle that many of them would have faced to become graduates. More than one had been in the Suffragette Movement, all were spinsters, and some dropped heavy hints about losing fiancés in the First World War. Those readers who might remember those mistresses may wish to read Growing Up Downhill for the delightful pen-portraits of teachers such as Miss Mason, Miss Vashon-Baker, ‘Wetty’ Smith, Miss Clark, Miss Robertson, Miss Reed and Miss Mason. Joyce expressed particular gratitude to those younger mistresses for ‘opening windows on the world’ during her first year in the Sixth. Those were Judith Oyler, the distinguished water colourist, Sandy ‘Dickie’ Bird, who made Shakespeare come alive, and Kay Dencer who, despite her illegible handwriting, opened up her eyes to current affairs. All three teachers encouraged their pupils to have views of their own, and paid them the compliment of listening to them and taking them seriously.

Joyce described her three years in the Sixth Form at LHS, and particularly the first year, as her best. It was to her a very different experience from the lower school, and clearly had a profound effect on her career after school. Joyce apparently did not make a deliberate decision to study humanities (in her case French, Latin, English and History) in the Sixth Form, but sciences were certainly an option, and three of her friends, ‘Chubby’ Blacklock, Nancy MacFarlane and Ethel Sharrard did study the sciences, and all became doctors. However Mary Lucas has pointed out that Physics was not on the curriculum, and the small group of ‘A’ level scientists studied Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics, or a combination of arts, humanities and sciences.

 

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Joyce in the Sixth Form at LHS in 1937 sporting a fashionable ‘gym-slip’

The ‘more constrained’ later years in the Sixth included decisions about what the girls might do on leaving school. In Joyce’s case her mother and father spent an evening with Miss Savill talking about her future. One option was the Civil Service, which was a ‘well-paid, safe, secure and respectable’ profession, but Miss Savill was clear in her own mind that Joyce should read History at university, and preferably at her own college in Oxford. Her father in particular was out of his depth in the conversation and was worried about the financial implications, but it was left to Miss Savill to think of ways of raising the necessary financial support. Joyce later took the Somerville Entrance papers and, to her surprise, was interviewed and offered a place with free tuition in exchange for promising to teach, and committing herself to train at the Oxford Department of Education on completing her degree.

More financial support was to come. Following her outstanding career at LHS, Joyce took up her place in 1938 at Somerville College, Oxford to read History on a College bursary supplemented by a Scholarship from the Collingham family of Lincoln, well-known for the Mawer and Collingham’s department store, the premises of which are currently occupied by the House of Fraser. I know it’s become something of a cliché, but the story of Joyce Skinner’s career at LHS is perhaps a classic example of the ‘ladder of educational opportunity’ afforded to bright, intelligent girls (and boys of course) from working-class backgrounds. As Joyce concluded, ‘I owe the High School a very great deal. I was happy there, and apart from the idle years in the middle school it suited me very well because I was interested in the things the School was good at.’ In a tacit criticism of many of the grammar schools of that era, she wrote that others were not so fortunate if their gifts lay in Art, Music, Dance, or in practical domestic subjects. I am reminded of the story I have told elsewhere about John Hurt, whose skills and talents in Drama and Art were not recognised as part of the academic curriculum, and were certainly not catered for at ‘O’ or ‘A’ level at Lincoln School. Students with those gifts would have the opportunity to thrive in the present-day curriculum at LCHS.

Joyce’s early teaching career was characterised by a variety of prestigious schools in different parts of the country, and a rapid movement up that other ladder. She began at Bridlington Girls’ High School in 1942, and after five years was appointed Head of the History Department at The Perse School for Girls in Cambridge. She then moved to Cumberland for one year as Senior Mistress before returning to Cambridge as a Senior Lecturer at Homerton College. After taking a year’s leave of absence as Visiting Lecturer at Queen’s College, New York, she returned to Homerton as a Principal Lecturer in 1958, and then in 1961Deputy Principal to the legendary Principal, Dame Beryl Paston Brown with whom Joyce developed a deep friendship, and for whom she later cared during her distressing terminal illness.

Ruth Miller (née Montgomery), a pupil at LHS, has told me that Miss Skinner interviewed her for a place at Homerton in the Education offices near the bottom of Lindum Hill, perhaps to save her mother the expense of her travelling to Cambridge. She started the interview by commenting that Ruth was in the unique position of being Head Girl of her old school! Ruth didn’t even know that Joyce had been at the High School, but it certainly calmed her nerves and she felt quite proud. The rest of the interview seemed to Ruth like an enjoyable wide-ranging ‘chat’ and it was only later that she realised how much can be discovered from that informal sort of interview. When Ruth arrived at Homerton she found that Joyce was to be her tutor and in fact several times Joyce offered her lifts to or from college on two or three occasions. I recall that Joyce was a keen motorist, and particularly proud of her Ford Capri, which she entrusted to me to look after during a spell when she was away from Lincoln.

Ruth also offered some interesting facts about social life at colleges in the early 1960s. In her first year at Homerton, for the first time ever, men (other than ‘brothers’ or ‘fathers’!) were allowed in women’s students’ rooms for two hours on Sunday afternoons. Prior to that, men had to be entertained in a number of large sitting rooms on the ground floor! Within a month of her being at Homerton Ruth’s boyfriend was trying to persuade her to get a weekend ‘exeat’ to go up to Newcastle for his 21st birthday in October 1961. Students were required to ask their tutors personally for weekend ‘exeats’ and Ruth remembers Miss Skinner raising her eyebrows and querying whether it was a good idea to go away so early in her first term. However she signed and wished her a good weekend!

As Ruth went on to suggest, today’s generation wouldn’t believe such restrictions would they? However things changed incredibly quickly during the ‘swinging 60s’, and Ruth recalled that, in her third year, the times when visitors were allowed in students’ rooms were 10am to midnight any day! Years later she met someone who had been at Homerton ten years later. Ruth explained the restrictions in her day, and asked her if there were any when she was there. She thought a moment and then explained that if men stayed in your room they had to be signed in for fire reasons, and if they stayed more than five nights they were regarded as ‘squatters’ and thrown out!

In 1964, Joyce was appointed Principal of The Diocesan Training College in Lincoln, whose name had been changed to Bishop Grosseteste College in 1962 to celebrate its centenary. During this period she also served on the Governing Body at LHS. She left in 1974 to return to Cambridge once more to spend six years as Director of the Cambridge Institute of Education, and then in 1984 was the first woman to accept the post of Academic Secretary of the influential Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET). As Humphrey Taylor, one of the Chaplains at BG during Joyce’s tenure as Principal wrote in a tribute, ‘She was hugely accomplished in the practice of teaching and then for most of her working life in the education of teachers.’

 

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Joyce in the prime of life

It is a relatively straightforward matter to chart Joyce’s academic qualifications and sparkling career pattern, but much more challenging to capture her personal qualities. I turn to Humphrey Taylor once again to find the right words to describe such a complex personality. He reminded the congregation at Joyce’s funeral that she had a deep commitment to people, and especially to her own beloved family and her many friends. This commitment also extended to her staff and the students at Bishop Grosseteste College. As Humphrey so eloquently put it she was always conspicuous for her care for the people whom she employed, spotting potential and encouraging growth and development. She had an unforgettable style of leadership, leading by the depth and quality of her thinking and her insight. She almost never gave instructions, let alone orders, which some found difficult because there was nothing to kick against. Many of us who, as young tutors at BG, benefitted from her wise counsel, will concur with Humphrey that anyone who approached her for guidance or advice would receive encouragement but also the space to think things through for themselves, and support in carrying it out. Her style of leadership was both supportive and challenging at the same time. Ian Fraser, another highly respected henchman, took up the same theme, describing Joyce as warm, friendly and compassionate, but always wanting and expecting the best out of people whilst giving help and support to those found wanting.

Other former colleagues at BG have also described her personal qualities. John Wyatt, one of her right-hand men and Deputy Principal in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, mentioned her wisdom, judgement, insight, sense of justice, and her ‘great sense of humour and deep laugh’. He also echoed the words of Humphrey Taylor in mentioning her cultural tastes, and her deep, private religious faith and beliefs. Perhaps most significantly for her role as Principal of a Church of England college John also recalled her faith in humanity and in the power of education to round that humanity. Joyce loved music too, and during her retirement was frequently to be seen at local recitals. The Classics were her favourite genre, and Beethoven string quartets in particular. I once made the mistake of telling her that I loved Wagner’s music. Emitting a loud guffaw, she firmly put me in my place by informing me that she had ‘no truck’ with the Wagnerian revolution in music. I lent her my LP of Wagner’s serenely beautiful Siegfried Idyll, but I doubt whether she ever listened to it! Maybe her aversion to Wagner had more to do with the nature of the man rather than his music. Art, and in particular the paintings of Samuel Palmer, was also a passion of hers, perhaps aroused by Art mistress Judith Oyler at LHS.

John Davies, a young English lecturer during Joyce’s regime as Principal at BG, remarked on her fair-mindedness, her humanity and her up-to-date grasp of educational issues both local and national. John later knew Joyce through her work at Lincoln Cathedral when she returned to her native city following her retirement. He described her as a devout but questioning Christian whose association with the Cathedral was life-long. Even to the end of her life, whilst in her late 80s, she could be seen staffing the information desk and dispensing her considerable knowledge.

Eileen Baker, Principal of BG at the turn of the 21st century, wrote in a moving obituary in The Independent that, on retiring in 1984, Joyce returned to Lincoln to pursue her life-long love of the Arts, serving as Vice-President of the Lincoln Society of Arts. She was also a loyal member of the Civic Trust for twenty-five years, and   renewed her involvement with the Cathedral, which was a short walk from her charming cottage in Rasen Lane, becoming editor of the quarterly journal of the Cathedral Community Association. Among many committee appointments, perhaps the most impressive was her chairing of the Diocesan Board of Mission and Unity, a body with a wide-ranging remit in an exceptionally large diocese. She also resumed her earlier work as the Bishop’s Inspector of Theological and Ordination Training. Moreover she continued her lifelong involvement in education, and among other commitments served on the Governing Body of LCHS, including Vice-Chair to Chairman Mr Nevile Camamile, during the late 1980s and 1990s.

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Joyce is pictured bottom left with a group of the LHS Governors in 1990

Seated on her right are Headmaster David Cox and Chairman of Governors Philip Race

Also in the photograph left-to-right on the top row are Richard Lucas,

Winifred Pouptis and Councillor G Burrell

The photograph was taken to celebrate 900 years of the history of Lincoln School, thought to have been founded by Remigius in 1090

Winifred Pouptis, pictured above and a former pupil of LHS has told me that Joyce was a real tower of strength and expertise on the Governing Body, and was Vice-Chair for several years. Having taught young students herself, Joyce was particularly understanding towards those who appeared before the disciplinary sub-committees for reasons that were sometimes down to circumstances outside their control. She was always prepared to listen to both sides of the story and to apply natural justice.

Former Headteacher at LCHS, David Cox, was another admirer, telling me that she was a splendid Governor, very supportive of him and his staff, and one who understood the nuances of running a school. She was also wholehearted in her support of the nature of LCHS as a school serving the community, and the wide range of ability and background within its catchment area. David explained how she became a personal friend and an excellent and empathetic sounding board. He described one of her crowning points in welcoming Princess Anne when she visited the School to open the new swimming pool complex. She had to be persuaded against her will to wear her CBE medal, but eventually succumbed to subtle pressure because of her pleasure in wearing the same gown that she had worn at the Palace. Just occasionally, David pointed out triumphantly, her modesty could be circumvented.

Joyce’s ‘great sense of humour’ manifested itself in many subtle ways. Trevor Kerry, a former colleague at BG, recalled his interview for a post at the College. Joyce was keen to balance her ageing and female-dominated staff with some younger male appointments. As Trevor sat opposite her in the hot seat, she leaned forward and said, ‘But you really are very young.’ On the spur of the moment Trevor replied, ‘Yes, Miss Skinner, but I am working on it every day!’ That brought a smile to Joyce’s face and he was offered the job!

John Bannister, Director of Music at BG for many years, also recalled his interview with Joyce. At one point, after offering him a post, Joyce voiced her scarcely concealed concern about young male tutors and slightly younger female students; ‘Oh Mr Bannister,’ she exclaimed, ‘I do wish you were married.’ John replied by promising that he would see what he could do before his appointment in September, but in fact didn’t manage it for another 17 years when he married a former student!

I recall a staff (Academic Council) meeting which Joyce was chairing when an MGB GT sports car hurtled into the adjoining car park with a screeching of brakes. In those days it was not uncommon for a young pilot officer from RAF Cranwell to pay a visit to the College in search of female company. Joyce paused in the mid-sentence and exclaimed, ‘We really must have a landing strip built on the College field’!

Eileen Baker befriended Joyce and came to admire her sharp intellect and dry humorous observations. She wrote in The Independent obituary referred to above that Joyce lost much of her sight and hearing in her 80s, a heavy blow for someone who found such sustenance in reading, art and music. Joyce told me, in one of our annual pre-Christmas coffee sessions, that reading was like breathing to her, and one of the saddest consequences for the Garton Archive is that she was unable to complete her History of Lincoln Girls’ High School because of her failing eyesight. Reading through her detailed and meticulous notes on the history of her alma mater, the words of Eileen Baker’s tribute spring to life; ‘She spoke and wrote economically, always to powerful effect. As one friend observed, “Joyce never wasted a word”.’ (See Appendix below) Eileen also drew attention to Joyce’s unassuming and self-deprecating character, and to her natural authority. She recalled that she could be (quietly) trenchant, but was never unkind. Eileen completed her tribute by pointing to the fact that her family and friends continued to be a source of joy and solace.

Joyce Skinner died on 31 October 2010, shortly after her 90th birthday, and is survived by nieces Faith, Sally and Elaine, and nine great and great-great nieces. John Bannister and I visited her in a Home on the Ermine Estate shortly before her death, and to our great sadness and concern she did not recognise two of her young appointees.

I reserve the right to end this tribute to one of Lincoln’s most famous daughters by recalling my own thoughts and memories. I was appointed to the staff of BG by

Joyce in September 1967 at a time when the College was undergoing rapid growth and expansion. This included an influx of young men students as well as young male members of staff. My own recollection of those heady years is that Joyce presided over a dramatic and intensive period of change in teacher-education, and was instrumental in dragging the College kicking and screaming, somewhat belatedly, into the 20th century!

Probably the most significant change was the consolidation of a three-year course for teacher-education which led ultimately to the award of a Bachelor of Education degree, validated at the time by the University of Nottingham. Initially an ‘Ordinary’ degree, suitably qualified students were later permitted to sit for a BEd (Hons) degree. At the same time a period of ‘Diversification’ took place in the College, with opportunities to study for non-teaching degrees in Combined Studies, American Studies and Rural Social Studies. This led to the degree with the unlikely nomenclature Bachelor of Combined Studies (BCombStuds) Those changes in both personnel and curriculum inevitably spawned many challenges and tensions in the work and life of BG. The traditional ‘main courses’ remained essentially the same in nature if not in depth, but ‘Education Studies’ took on a whole new dimension with its focus on applied psychology, sociology, philosophy and curriculum studies. Because of the shift toward a more academically- oriented degree course, classroom practice and professional studies took on a backstage role until later finding its rightful place as worthy of serious study, in addition to providing opportunity to practise and develop the skills and expertise needed to perform well in the classroom.

During those exciting but turbulent times Joyce played a major role in helping to resolve the tensions and conflicts caused by different vested interests, and by the traditional ‘friendly’ rivalry between the main course subjects such as English and History, and the new social sciences and education studies courses. In my response to Archivist Guen Moyes’ request for information about Joyce, I concluded my ‘Joyce Jottings’ with the following statement:

Joyce’s strengths included her vision for the College, her academic background and credentials, her political acumen, and her administrative and organisational abilities. However she was also a sensitive and caring person, who was highly supportive of her younger appointees, and sensitive to their needs and aspirations. She was the right person for the job at that time, and not only did she preside over the period of ‘sturm und drang’, but she was also in many ways a catalyst for change at both local and national levels. Politically she was an active Socialist, which manifestly influenced her educational principles and philosophy.

Her political affiliations must have been to some extent influenced by her upbringing. In Growing up Downhill she described her father as a ‘good Tory’, but there are clues in the narrative about her own early political leanings. Both sisters had a fascination for elections from being very young, and were aware that Lincoln was a marginal seat, and that elections were hard-fought, although the Carholme Ward where the Skinners lived was ‘solidly Conservative’ at the time. No doubt the girls’ attitudes were shaped by the General Strike, the poverty in which they lived, newspapers such as the News Chronicle and the Lincolnshire Echo, the largely non-conformist church sermons that they attended, the Public Library, the cinemas and Theatre Royal, and the events leading up to the Second World War.

Joyce remembers going with her father to the Central Cinema, long since demolished, to hear Clement Attlee, and despite being disappointed by his ‘thin high voice and unimpressive appearance’, and also by his ‘deliberate dodging of a question on hereditary titles’, may well have been sympathetic to his left-wing views. In later years, Joyce has been described, perhaps unfairly, as an ‘intellectual socialist’. In my experience, however, she showed a compassionate concern for the underdog and the less fortunate, which was almost certainly influenced by her formative years in the West End of Lincoln.

Some of Joyce’s most cherished educational principles are revealed in an article in the prestigious Cambridge Journal of Education (Skinner, 1996). In her typically self-effacing manner she described her article as ‘limited, journalistic, and over-dogmatic’. In her own words, ‘… it is an attempt at rational reflection on personal experience gained over a quarter of a century’. She focused on her three most significant issues. The first was the ‘wholly welcome growth’ in continuing study and learning, and in particular in adult education. I understand that the present Vice-Chancellor of Bishop Grosseteste University, Professor Peter Neil, would heartily endorse those sentiments. She also celebrated the achievements of the Open University in greatly stimulating growth in that field.

Her second reflection related to what she described as the ‘bureaucratisation’ of learning, which had sprung from two main sources; the growth in size of institutions and the limitations imposed on local government. Although she appeared to welcome the comprehensive movement in education, she warned against the possibility that ‘very large secondary schools’ which, although encouraging choice and investment, tended to ‘reflect the values of big business rather than those of centres of learning’. In a highly prophetic statement she also wondered whether schools might become like some hospitals and run by ‘managers from outside the profession’. As I write, LCHS is about to appoint a new Headteacher, and the Governing Body might do well to heed those words of distilled wisdom.

She described the subject of her third reflection, the impact of the National Curriculum, as ‘perhaps the most important of the last twenty-five years’. Whilst agreeing that the principle of a National Curriculum was clearly a good one, she was highly critical of a scheme ‘so prescriptive, detailed, content-ridden, and so assessment- and inspection-dominated’. It appeared to Joyce to be a heavy-handed, bureaucratic instrument held in place by a system of league tables devoted to a system of assessment that was insensitive to local and individual needs, and which gave insufficient weight to values and experience through which students (of any age) grow and become critical persons. She explained that she was referring to literature, music, drama, dance, art and even sport and physical activity. In a final telling statement, Joyce dismissed the National Curriculum as it was conceived at the time as ‘a disabling weapon in the hands of an insensitive and centralising government’, which could be a ‘deadly tool if used by a powerfully ideological one’. As the ‘new’ National Curriculum is revealed, we would do well to consider those warnings afresh almost eighteen years after her seminal article was published.

I began this article by quoting Professor Charles Garton’s words, written in his own ex-libris copy of Growing up Downhill, describing Joyce Skinner as one of the most distinguished alumnae of Lincoln Christ’s Hospital Girls’ High School. From my own researches, and discussions with many people who knew and respected her, I would be hard-pressed to find a former pupil more deserving of the accolade of the most distinguished alumna, and one of the most accomplished and distinguished daughters of the City of Lincoln.

 

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Joyce escorts the Duchess of Kent through the grounds of Bishop Grosseteste College

In the background (right) is Bishop Kenneth Riches

Appendix

In February 1990, Joyce wrote a short history with the title Lincoln Christ’s Hospital High School for Girls, and which I believe she intended to act as a prequel to a much fuller history, before her failing eyesight sadly intervened.

The extract below shows the first page, slightly reduced in size, in her distinctive handwriting. The document will be published as a separate Occasional Paper from the Garton Archive in due course.

 

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References

Skinner, J & Purchase, R (1989)   Growing up Downhill   Richard Kay, Boston Lincs

Skinner, JE (1990)   Lincoln Christ’s Hospital High School for Girls 1893-1974 Unpublished Paper

Skinner, Joyce (1996)   Reflections … on Experiences 1971-1996   Cambridge Journal of Education, Vol. 6, No 2

Documents and photographs held in the archives at Bishop Grosseteste University, Lincoln

Documents and photographs held in the Garton Archive at LCHS

Acknowledgements

The author wishes to acknowledge the contributions made by Guen Moyes, archivist, and former colleagues at Bishop Grosseteste College named in the article, Ruth Miller, Mary Lucas, David Cox, Nevile Camamile, Hugh Taylor, Richard Long, and Winifred Pouptis.

Thanks are also due to Catherine Forbes, Promotions and Publicity Manager at LCHS, for the photograph of 33 Drake Street.

About the Author

Peter Harrod is Assistant Archivist and a Foundation Governor at LCHS.

He was appointed by Joyce Skinner in 1967 as a Lecturer in Primary Education at Bishop Grosseteste College (now University), and retired as a full-time tutor in 2002.