Kathleen Mitchell believed in the power of education to change lives and saw access to the arts as crucial to achieving her goal
Kathleen Mitchell, who has died aged 100, was a pioneering figure in the early years of comprehensive education in England. A radical thinker, as head of Pimlico school, central London, in the 1970s she created in effect the first state specialist music school. She had been equally innovative in developing pastoral care and social education at Starcross school in north London.
Kathleen came from a generation of strong, articulate women who dominated state education in London in the 60s and 70s. She believed in the power of education to change lives and saw access to the arts as crucial to achieving her goal.
When she became head at Pimlico in 1974 she inherited a big school with discipline problems. In response, she developed a rich curriculum to engage students from all backgrounds. The school had its own symphony orchestra, and a chamber orchestra, and had close links to the London Schools Symphony Orchestra. Every year 15 students were picked by the Inner London Education Authority (Ilea) to become part of the schools special course for musicians, and many went on to become professionals.
Kathleens personal life revolved around music: her second husband, Donald Mitchell, was a well-known writer on music, particularly on Gustav Mahler, and went on to set up the publishing house Faber Music with Benjamin Britten. The Mitchells became good friends with Britten and his partner, Peter Pears, and the Pimlico schools choir and orchestra appeared in Brittens Noyes Fludde at the Aldeburgh festival. The work is based on the account of Noahs flood given in the Chester Mystery Plays, and towards the end of his life the composer had been planning a new stage work, A Christmas Sequence, for the school, adapted from the same source.
The adult world that Kathleen inhabited was a huge contrast to her beginnings she was living proof of her belief in personal empowerment. Born in London, she grew up in West Norwood. She was always close to her mother, Trudy (nee Johnson), who ran a coffee shop. Her father, Charles Burbidge, a post office worker, was fond of the local pub and a less than constant presence in her life. Her brother Reg, an RAF pilot, was killed in the second world war.
Kathleen loved her local grammar school, but university was out of the question until she earned some money. She worked at the London County council as a secretary, then enrolled in evening classes at Birkbeck College, where she studied history and met her future husband, David Livingston.
He had always wanted to start his own school and Mitchell was enthused. In 1939 they set up Oakfield school, in Dulwich, south-east London. It flourished and became a draw for talented teachers.
The couple married in 1940, with Kathleen already pregnant with her son, Mark. She did not care much for convention and what would have been considered scandalous in peacetime was noticed less during the war.
Among the teachers who came to Oakfield school was Donald, who was younger, and a conscientious objector during the war. They began a passionate affair and around 1950 she left her first marriage.
Kathleen and Donald set up home together and she began teaching at Hammersmith comprehensive; they married in 1956. She was talent-spotted by a school inspector and became deputy head at Dick Sheppard comprehensive in Tulse Hill. While there, she and her husband adopted two boys, Bernie and Keith.
In 1964 Kathleen became head of Starcross girls school in Camden. The following year it merged with another school, Risinghill, to create a 1,200 girls comprehensive under the Starcross name, which later became the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson school in Islington.
When Gladys West joined the school as a teacher in 1967, she found Kathleen to be an inspirational head. After she addressed us at the beginning of the year we walked out feeling that we could conquer the world. We felt empowered and enabled.
The school was a laboratory for Kathleens ideas. Many of the girls came from extremely deprived backgrounds and she was empathetic and supportive. Arts was embedded in the curriculum, including dance. Sir Peter Newsam, who became chief education officer for the Ilea in 1975, remembered his first visit to the school. I went to her school and there were two very overweight girls dancing to I Am a Rock, and they were bloody good. I still remember the look on the faces of those two girls when the audience of children and parents applauded them. It was a school that valued people.
This was Kathleens trademark: everyone mattered. To that end she developed strong pastoral support for the girls, and for the most disaffected she devised an alternative curriculum covering sex education, citizenship and community service. It was so successful that the number of girls leaving school at 15 dwindled, and Mitchell extended it to the whole school, a precursor of what became known as personal, social and health education PSHE.
Kathleen would explore many ways to motivate difficult students rather than exclude them. Some girls could attend college for part of the week and she established an off-site unit staffed by experts in behaviour management. At the same time she introduced programmes for high-achieving girls and established a link with Sussex University. If they came from homes where no one had been to university, she ensured they had extra support.
But all this did not mean discipline was lax. Mitchell believed structures were important for children. My job as head is to set up an organisation that works. I dont think it would be any good having marvellous ideas if one couldnt be efficient in a school. But its no good organising so that the humanity is out of it ... the human side is important and takes priority on every occasion.
Kathleen became a magnet for ambitious teachers, many of whom went on to become heads themselves. She set up a pioneering workplace nursery to encourage teachers who had had children to return to work. She attracted staff who had made their names in other fields, among them the feminist historian Sheila Rowbotham and the cartoonist Glen Baxter.
At Pimlico, she still had fresh ideas in abundance: she ensured form tutors stayed with their class for a full five years; she brought in architects to develop the Front Door project, getting children to draw their journey to school and think about how its environment could be improved; and she invited students from Imperial College to work with students in science lessons.
During her time at the school she developed painful arthritis. John Bancrofts grade II listed building was full of stairs and became difficult for her, and she retired as a head in 1979. She continued, though, to develop a sixth-form enrichment programme across London.
In the late 80s her activities were curtailed by her loss of sight following a bout of shingles. After 50 years of living in Bloomsbury, she and Donald moved to a nursing home in Camden earlier this year.
She is survived by Donald and their son Keith, her son, Mark, from her first marriage, and three granddaughters and five grandsons. Bernie died in 2014.
Kathleen Gertrude Mitchell, educationist, born 26 November 1916; died 22 May 2017
Read the original post:
- Religion news May 23 - The Republic - May 24th, 2020
- Mary Kay Inc. Continues Its Support of Women's Empowerment at the International Women's Forum TIME'S UP Virtual Conference - Financial Post - May 24th, 2020
- All in the Trump family: meet the presidents surrogates and strategists - The Guardian - May 24th, 2020
- Mary Kay Inc. continues its support of womens empowerment at the International Womens Forum TIMES UP Virtual Conference - ANTARA - May 24th, 2020
- The importance of acting on grand bargain commitments for a meaningful focus on gender in cash and voucher assistance responses to the Covid-19... - May 24th, 2020
- Beyond the Boys Club: Maria Brink of In This Moment - Consequence of Sound - May 24th, 2020
- Art to create awareness about the pandemic - Deccan Herald - May 24th, 2020
- OPINION | Teachers should be seen as frontline workers and will need all our support - News24 - May 24th, 2020
- Find a balance to fighting coronavirus | HeraldNet.com - The Daily Herald - May 15th, 2020
- Trust, compassion, clear communication: effective leadership during COVID-19 - Anthill online - May 15th, 2020
- The Fight for the 2020 Vote and the March to the Ballot Box - pridepublishinggroup.com - May 15th, 2020
- 'All you need is love.' Area resident taking the message worldwide - Castine Patriot - May 15th, 2020
- As reopening begins it's time to start talking about the emotional effect COVID-19 has had on us - GOOD Magazine - May 15th, 2020
- The Week in impact investing: Systemic - ImpactAlpha - May 15th, 2020
- Embracing the New Normal with Rick Hanson, Ph.D. - Free Speech TV - May 14th, 2020
- Small business loans, transfer station hours, construction and other Barnstable Town Notes - Barnstable Patriot - May 14th, 2020
- United Way Organizes Countywide Food Drive in Putnam on Saturday - Patch.com - May 14th, 2020
- SRK urges fans to support healthcare officials fighting against COVID-19 through his Meer Foundation - Newsd - May 14th, 2020
- Behind the Whistle: One Voice, The Purity of Sport - US Lacrosse Magazine - May 14th, 2020
- Too Hot to Handle: Contestants Who Showed the Most Personal Growth, Ranked - Screen Rant - May 14th, 2020
- Emily Witt He's Humbert, I'm Dolores LRB 21 May 2020 - London Review of Books - May 14th, 2020
- Arbonne Community Donates $393000 In Funding To Youth Organizations - Stockhouse - May 14th, 2020
- How the pandemic impacts the mental health of local front-line workers - Pacific Northwest Inlander - May 14th, 2020
- As reopening begins in uncertain coronavirus times, you need emotional protective equipment, too - The Conversation US - May 14th, 2020
- Can Words Help Heal a Fractured Nation?: A Visit to the Jaipur Literature Festival - lareviewofbooks - May 14th, 2020
- Contact tracing apps: What's the least worst option? - Sifted - May 14th, 2020
- Filling the Maternal-Care Gap in Prison - The American Prospect - May 14th, 2020
- Positive School Culture: Why it Must be Prioritized in Order to Improve the Social, Learning, and Teaching Environment of Boothbay Region High School... - May 14th, 2020
- Breaking down the songs of Eurovision 2020 - Eurovision.tv - May 14th, 2020
- Vanessa Branson on family, her new memoir and why her brother Richard is no 'wizened tycoon' - Evening Standard - May 14th, 2020
- Junior League of Boca Raton Presents Virtual Talk by Barb Schmidt on "Facing the New Normal: Tools to Rise Above Anxiety" - The Boca Raton... - May 8th, 2020
- TransUnion Accelerates the Expansion of its Global Fraud Business and Hires Shai Cohen to Lead it - Yahoo Finance - May 8th, 2020
- COVID-19 and Black America: Things A Vaccine Will Not Cure - charlestonchronicle.net - May 8th, 2020
- Bois Locker Room: It's high time to bury 'boys will be boys' excuse - WION - May 8th, 2020
- Intimate portraits piece together the puzzle of Natalie Wood, the person and mother - theday.com - May 8th, 2020
- Elets Webinar| Effective Governance: A Changing Paradigm in times of Corona - Elets - May 8th, 2020
- Get Her a Gift That Gets It: The Cocoiv Collection Captures the Wit, Warmth and Magic of Black Moms - The Root - May 8th, 2020
- Herman Mashaba: Left in the hands of a confused Cabinet - News24 - May 8th, 2020
- Nobody Ever Asks Poor People About Their Capacity': Bob Woodson Offers A Hand Up Through His Center - The Seattle Medium - Seattle Medium - May 8th, 2020
- 57% of Canadians Say Household Income Negatively Impacted by COVID-19 - Yahoo Finance - April 9th, 2020
- Religion news April 4 - The Republic - April 9th, 2020
- The 'The Wizard of Oz' is Fit for a Pandemic 81 Years Later - Black Girl Nerds - April 9th, 2020
- St. Olaf celebrates 50 years of ordaining Lutheran women - Manitou Messenger - April 9th, 2020
- Dress for Success Announces Common Threads Event to Go Virtual - Business West - April 9th, 2020
- National policy on skill acquisition for youths Part 3 - Guardian - April 9th, 2020
- OUR LOCAL NONPROFITS NEED YOUR HELP | Business - Yes! Weekly - April 9th, 2020
- The 19th Century Roots of Modern Medical Denialism - Undark Magazine - April 9th, 2020
- What does COVID-19 mean for the social fabric of our nations? - BFPG - April 9th, 2020
- How Cisco's Nonprofit Partners Are Pivoting and Innovating to Address Unexpected Needs - CSRwire.com - April 9th, 2020
- Covid-19 and the Conspiracy Theorists | Asharq AL-awsat - Asharq Al-awsat English - April 9th, 2020
- Rise in domestic abuse cases as families forced to stay home - The New Paper - April 9th, 2020
- War against virus: The new nightingales of India, lighting the lamp of hope (IANS Special) - Outlook India - April 9th, 2020
- Nearly 60% of Americans Say Household Income Negatively Impacted by COVID-19 - Yahoo Finance - March 31st, 2020
- The empowered women behind JMU's feminist blogs | Culture - The Breeze - March 31st, 2020
- My Gymnastics Coach Used to Fat-Shame Girls, and It Shaped the Way I View My Body - POPSUGAR - March 31st, 2020
- Undemocratic Elections Have Citizens Reinventing Self-Governance Worldwide - Truthout - March 31st, 2020
- Shaping Culture: Nawal Sari on the intersection of modest fashion and sneakers - Fashion Journal - March 31st, 2020
- Winners of Fifth Annual Zeiss Photography Awards Announced - Arts and Collections International - March 31st, 2020
- Advisors step up to provide free advice to Canadians impacted by COVID-19 fallout - The Globe and Mail - March 31st, 2020
- The Boardroom Season 2 Offers A Good Look At Sports Intersection With Business And Culture During Hiatus - Forbes - March 31st, 2020
- Alternative Spring BAE travelers bring lessons of Belize home to changed US - NIU Today - March 31st, 2020
- How to work in new ways | Feature - Law Gazette - March 31st, 2020
- The PULSE Project brings Women's Empowerment Summit to UCM campus - The Daily Star-Journal - March 10th, 2020
- Lipstick Lex shares the love in her art - Sarasota Herald-Tribune - March 10th, 2020
- Celebrating Women's History Month with 6 faces leading the charge in Oakland County: Debi Fragomeni - The Oakland Press - March 10th, 2020
- We are living in an age of lethal empowerment - The Globe and Mail - March 10th, 2020
- Gustavus Women in Leadership Celebrates 10th Anniversary - The student-led organization hosted its 10th annual conference on Friday, March 6.Posted on... - March 10th, 2020
- Halsey's miscarriage story expands the definition of womanhood - Queen's Journal - March 10th, 2020
- Lady Gaga is publishing an anthology of inspirational stories by youth - CBC.ca - March 10th, 2020
- Album Review: Various Artists Birds of Prey: The Album - mxdwn.com - March 10th, 2020
- Feminism now 'personal branding rather than revolutionary rhetoric' - RNZ - March 10th, 2020
- Author Roxane Gay conference speaker - Compton Herald - March 10th, 2020
- SCAD Exhibit by Derrick Adams Born From Archives of Patrick Kelly - WWD - March 10th, 2020
- How "My Dark Vanessa" Became One Of The Biggest Books Of The Year - BuzzFeed News - March 10th, 2020
- Why the world conference on women matters - Policy Options - March 10th, 2020
- Harry and Meghan share highlights of meeting with young leaders from Queen's Commonwealth Trust - Evening Standard - March 10th, 2020
- Carnegie Centers Permanent And Natural Is A Diverse And Spirited Exploration Of Hair - 89.3 WFPL News Louisville - March 10th, 2020
- Articles Best Companies 2020: The Top 25 Housing Organisations - 24housing - March 10th, 2020
- Rapsody Brings a Message of Self-Love and Empowerment to the Sinclair | Arts - Harvard Crimson - February 25th, 2020
- HerCampus UWG Speaks on Women Empowerment - West Georgian - February 25th, 2020