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Head Mistresses at the King Edward VI Foundation

February 23, 2012

It was a rare thing in 1883 to find women teaching in schools never mind working in such a senior role as leading one. So it is appropriate for us to give all those women who did that the hat tip on this site.  More precisely, this is a list of the 25 women who have already headed up one of the schools in the King Edward VI Foundation in Birmingham.  So far all have worked at the girls only schools.  I understand Handsworth, Camp Hill and Five Ways are all due new Heads this autumn, so maybe we will see a female head for boys in a foundation school for the first time in the schools’ history.

So, this post really is no more than though than an acknowledgment.  To begin with I haven’t given any of the women a cursory hyperlink to another part of the internet.  I will do my best to come to that, as my initial research has shown that these women were powerful, determined and able to achieve success in a very much harder world than today.

So, starting with King Edward VI High School for Girls, the only independent girls school in the foundation:

Miss Edith Elizabeth Maria Creak    1883 – 1910
Miss Edith Helen Major                    1911 – 1925
Miss Lilian K Barrie 1925 – 1941
Dr Mary Sybil Smith 1941 – 1953
Miss Sylvia Lloyd Williams 1953 – 1964
Miss Jean RF Wilkes 1964 – 1977
Miss Ena Evans 1977 – 1996
Sarah Evans (Principal) 1996 – current

Next up Handsworth, the first of two all girls selective voluntary-aided schools in the group.  Interestingly, their accounts for y/e March 2010 show turnover of more than £4m, mostly public funding, yet no formal requirement for them to produce audited accounts. If anyone can explain why, I’d be pleased to understand that better.  But I digress:

Margaret Nimmo                             1883 – 1915
Miss Brew 1915 – 1942
Miss Bamforth 1942 – 1963
Miss Fox 1963 – 1966
Miss Reid 1966 – 1971
Miss Sergeant 1971 – 1989
Miss Inch 1989 – 2012

Finally my alma mater, KE VI Camp Hill School for Girls:

Miss Harriet Grundy                        1883 – 1903
Miss Helen Sullivan 1903 – 1913
Miss Mary Keen 1913 – 1943
Miss Muriel Mandeville 1943 – 1962
Miss Joan Miller 1963 – 1978
Miss Ann Percival 1979 – 1992
Mrs Joan Fisher 1992 – 2003
Mrs Dru James 2003 – 2012

So there we are.  Three all-girl selective schools, producing hundreds of highly educated, impressive women in Birmingham every year and the 23 women who have led them for nearly 130 years.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. Val Marshall permalink
    August 27, 2015 9:59 pm

    Amazing to come across your information on Muriel Mandeville- I was a pupil in the early fifties- and if you check the “Portrait of a School”-published in 1999- There I am on page 147 – the photo on the right- Valerie Wheeldon- myself’-‘used to be Valerie King-‘and Valerie Weldon. We were in London for the 1951 Festival of Britain. I was extremely fortunate to attend Camp Hill.
    Miss Mandeville was an amazing women- She instilled in all of us the belief that we could succeed in any avenue of life. I’m sure many of us still remember her “Go forth into the world in peace……
    I’ve been fortunate to travel the world….Lived in New Zealand and now Canada for over 50 years..Past Pres of Rotary and Paul Harris award, municipal politician,owned my own travel agency and many other great rewards.
    A few years ago I was able to attend a reunion of our class organized by Marilyn Hiscock.
    Val Marshall

  2. Vicky permalink
    May 19, 2014 11:47 am

    Thanks for this great list. Just a very quick note (as a member of her family) that Miss Jean R. F. Wilks is spelt without an “e” in Wilks.

  3. October 8, 2013 4:02 pm

    Hi, All, I picked up on your posting during a search for members of the Shenley Court Class of 1966 . My wife Bel, (Class of 1963) and I attended a reunion at Shenley Academy last week-end (Oct 5th) for the 50th anniversary of the opening of the school. It was a great evening though tinged with sadness seeing the old school flattened for a brand new sparking academy…not the same though.

    I attended the 25th reunion in 1991 and thought it would be nice trying to set up a 2016 50th reunion.. I was in Class 1AR thru 5AR (1966-1971) and were mates with Terry Harris, Steven Plant, Chris Parr, Steve Taylor, and knew from Moors Lane Barry Beetason , the Steele brothers (Robert, Barry, David), Derek (Class of 1963) and Malcolm Smith and Bobby Roberts.

    I remember Mrs Roberts and was able to chat to Mr Booth (metalwork), Mr Griffith( Geography) and Mr Gibson (Science) at the recent 1963 Class reunion.

    Others I recall Wendy Waldron, Sonja Crabtree and Beverley Bradnick , if any of you have any contacts of other Class of 1966 members that would be great.

    In any event thanks for the memories…

    Dave S.

    • Mark Steele permalink
      October 10, 2013 10:52 am

      Thanks for that David, I think I remember you! I would have been happy to come along to the commemoration for 50 years of the school had I known about it! But there we are, if something can be arranged for 2016 so much the better. I think Wendy Waldron was a driving force behind the 1991 reunion, but I am no longer in contact with her.

      I will kick around on Facebook to see if I can drum up some intrerest, but I am only in contact with one former pupil and not sure how interested she is.

      Meanwhile, best wishes, as always

      Mark Stweele (1XP etc – I think)

      • October 10, 2013 11:14 am

        Hi Mark..thanks for the note. Glad to make the contact again.

        The re-union was for the Class of 1963, the first on the site and it was very good, but in the new Academy as the old school is now flattened..very sad..but there is a film on You-Tube ‘Ghosts of Shenley Court’ where views of the old and empty school can be toured.

        It would be good to set up something for September 2016, a few teachers might still be able to make it!..Unfortunately all the old records seems to have gone, along with the school so its down to our memory, social media and luck. If your contact knows others then that would be really helpful.

        I do not know if you have looked at my website but I am a writer and would be happy to log any memories and details of our year. My wife Bel is aiming to keep in touch with the 1963 Year she was a member of. It is a challenge but a fun one.

        In any event your recollections will help fit in missing pieces…especially from the XP side of things 🙂

        All the best

        Dave S.

    • steele mark permalink
      October 10, 2013 10:55 am

      Thank you Dave. I have posted a comment on the website, Regards, Mark Steele

      • October 11, 2013 9:00 am

        Thanks Mark…most appreciated, lets see what happens.


        Dave S.

      • Paul Simmonds permalink
        March 22, 2018 9:50 pm

        Mark, I was in 1XP-3XP, starting 1968. I was also in the West Mids police with David Green…Do you have any contact details for Wendy Waldron, please?

    • Paul Simmonds permalink
      March 17, 2018 8:36 am

      Dave, Hello, I was in 1XP-3XP, starting 1968. Do you have any contact details for Wendy Waldron, please?

      • Dave Shayler permalink
        March 26, 2018 2:30 pm

        Hi Paul, Thanks for the note…Unfortunately, I do not have any contact details for Wendy. I remained in contact with her for about a year after leaving Shenley in 1971 and then met up again at the 1991 reunion when she was using the name Wendy Butler having married, but nothing since.

        2021 is the fiftieth year of our 5th year graduation and 30 years after our last get together…so it would be nice to meet up with a few old chums…even though the school is no longer there as we knew it. I also remember Edwina Sutton (Eddy Kneale) …but I have not heard from any of them for years -though Stephen Taylor tried to contact me about ten years ago, but we lost touch again.

        Dave S.

  4. March 20, 2013 11:42 pm

    I attended Shenley Court 1966 to 1969 then moved onto Sheldon Heath Comprehensive I was informed by Ms Roberts before leaving that she had been a former head of Sheldon Heath.
    It made me feel at ease to know that the schools would be ‘similar’.
    I was soon shot down when faced with a class full of ‘sheldon’ kids falling about with laughter as I stood to attention when a member of staff entered the class room or when I replied ‘Yes Madam’ each time a female member of staff spoke to me…
    I often wonder if she really was a former head there or if she just told me that for a laugh.
    Bernadette Scott

  5. a.e permalink
    October 30, 2012 12:36 pm

    do you have any more information on Dr Mary Sybil Smith, as she is relation of mine?

    • October 31, 2012 7:50 pm

      I’m afraid I don’t, but the foundation has an archivist. She pops on here occasionally, so may see your comment, otherwise I think if you call KES, they can put you through to her. SHe has stacks of information on the schools and their heads. If you find anythign interesting, before to come back here and let us know.

      Many thanks for your interest in the site.


      • alisonwwheatley permalink
        December 21, 2012 11:36 am

        Hi Jak,

        Have finally got round to signing up! Will be in touch…


  6. Julia permalink
    February 24, 2012 11:11 am

    Hi Jackie

    Nice idea to include girl’s school heads – and I do think that the history of girls schools in the nineteenth century, and the struggle some of those early Heads had is a fascinating one.

    However, er, um … if we are including a proud list of all the heads of local indpenedent schools I think we should, maybe, also look at the other side of this story.

    In the early nineteen-seventies there were some very bitter arguments about the structure of secondary education in Birmingham, and there was a song doing the rounds:

    Build a bonfire, Build a bonfire
    Put King Edward’s on the top
    Put the grammar schools underneath them
    Then we’ll burn the bloody lot.

    The head of my ‘alma mater’ was Hilda Roberts, who was the first, and very pioneering – indeed often battling – Head of Shenley Court Comprehensive School – as it was known back in 1963 – now Shenley Court School and Sixth Form Centre – Shenley Lane, Northfield.

    One of the battles Hilda had to fight was against ‘creaming’ which, in plain English, meant that some parents from some of the better off , owner-occupier local areas (e.g. Weoley Hill) did not want their little darlings mixing with children from council house areas, (e.g. Weoley Castle). The ‘creamed’ children very often went to K.E. Not quoting any research here (Will find something if someone really complains) but I know there has been a lot of research to show that comprehensive schools do best when they have a good mix of abilities. It has always been difficult for comprehensives in areas of ‘creaming’ Another battle Hilda had to face was something called ‘The Dawes Education Plan’. This disaster of an idea, invented by an Alderman Sidney Dawes, around 1971, would have meant that schools like Shenley would have lost their sixth forms and become glorified secondary modern schools. Hilda called a huge meeting of parents and teachers and older pupils, put the proponents of the Dawes Plan on the platform, addressed the councillors herself and basically ensured that we got our say. Sidney Dawes slipped quietly away and the Dawes Plan was heard of no more.

    Hilda established a big sixth form, offering a wide range of subjects which sent many to university. Having transferred from a small local girls grammar school (not K.E.) I recall quietly noting that, at time when the overall perdentages going into H.E. were tiny compared to now, and given a similar sized ‘selective’ intake, three times as many went from Shenley into Higher Education the year I joined, as opposed to those who went from Bournville Girls Grammar-Tech the year I left. (Nine as opposed to three.)

    Hilda was in many ways a very old fashioned Head Mistress – still remember, not long after I joined the school, being bewildered for being hauled up for the ghastly crime of wearing red gum boots (the only colour boots I had) on a snowy day, and then, briskly, being told to take my hands out of my pockets. However, I did find her forthright, campaigning spirit, and her passionate support for the school inspirational. The Dawes meeting was the first political meeting I ever went to. I have never forgotten it.

    • Mark Steele permalink
      September 11, 2012 4:51 pm

      That s an interesting comment about Miss Roberts Julia and yes I remember you well as I was at Northfield Manor with you in Mr Morgan’s class.

      My time at both schools was literally life-defining but I have mixed feelings about Miss Roberts not sure she really liked me but I respected her and what she was trying to do but her way of going about it was bizarre. I alst saw her at a school reunion for the class of ’66 organised by Anne Newton, Wedny Waldron and Sooty (Edwina Sutton, or Eddy Kneale as she prfers to be known) and she was just as unpleasant to me then as she was when I was at the school and seemed to spend most of my time in her office being told I was immature and irresponsible and needed to get my hair cut.

      So I left after 0-levels to go to Bournville College of FE and Hall Green Tech from where I began my academic career.

      When my two eldest daughters came up to secondary school age I decdied to send them to Hillcrest School (formerl Bartley Green Girls) as it was unfair for Mark Steele’s daughters to have to go to a school where I had a bit of a reputation. In the end my girls ended up in the private system at Edgbaston High and the Convent of the Holy Child Jesus which was a bit embarrassing.

      But thanks for your reflections

      • Mark Steele permalink
        September 11, 2012 5:16 pm

        I just wanted to add a few things to my post in regard to Julia’s comments about Miss Roberts. First of all apologies for typos I was hurrying to finish within a deadline here at the library in Maidstone.

        Shenley Court will I think be fifty years old in 2013 and some sort of celebration should be held. It recently gained academy status and there are comments around on the web facebook etc. from more recent students of Shenley Court suggesting that some sort of ceremony should have been held to mourn the death of the old school and celebrate the Shenley Academy.

        I will try to contact a few of the class of 66 later in the month since the 1991 quarter century reunion was, as Miss Roberts noted, the first ever. But then we were a remarkable year among the talents I had as contemporaries were the three career women mentioned in my earlier post, and such luminaries as Ed Lee the photograopher and his wife Jennifer Holland, Annette Smith who no-one will ever forget, Janet Brookes, Liz Cartiledge, Ian Gibson (who caused so much mirth in his dealings with Mr Francis) and his unforgettable freind Ken Stonehall. And what about the other Smith girl, Marion, who went on to assert the rights of trade unionists at Sainsburys! I have always been proud to be part of this remarkable coteries of over 300 pupils who came up in 1966. Most of all we should remember David Green cut of before he had a chance to grow and when I get the chance I go to look at the memorial plaque to him at Steelhosuie Lane police station.

        We should also remember other teachers than Miss Roberts who made such a tremendous contribution. From my point of view the most important were Mr Toogood and Chris Grey who helped to make Spanish language and culture one of the great pleasures of my life. But who would forget Dick Mills who was Head of the English Department when aged only 12 or somethign like that and went on to become a distinguished teacher of teachers which in my view was a pity: he should have stayed at the chalk face. Finally (I could go on about the useless teachers but let’s be generous for once) the appointment of Mr Walkden as Head of Lower School gave me much pleasure because of his tolerance of my two left feet in anything physical and his kindness and encouragement of my mothetr when she was learning to swim in his evening class!

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