Honouring former Headmaster Tim Edwards

Honouring former Headmaster Tim Edwards

Queen Elizabeth’s School today remembers Tim Edwards, Headmaster from 1961 to 1983, who died on Friday at the age of 98.

Timothy Bracey Edwards took over the headship from longstanding Headmaster Ernest Jenkins (1930–1961). After leading the School as a grammar for ten years, he then steered it through a major expansion as it became a comprehensive, which it remained during the rest of his 22-year tenure.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “After serving at Bletchley Park during the latter stages of the Second World War and then establishing a successful teaching career, Tim came to QE at the start of the 1960s – a period which saw huge change in the country and in the national education system. He had a long headship and was a figure of consequence, not only at QE, but also locally, serving on the Education Committee of Barnet Council.

“He played a significant role in the School’s modern history, and many will remember his courteous nature and kindness. I offer my sincere condolences to his family on their loss.”

The 1981 School Captain, Andy Porteous, also paid tribute to his Headmaster: “He was a man of great compassion and principles.”

Educated at Clifton College in Bristol, Mr Edwards joined the RAF after leaving school in July 1943. His early plans to become a pilot were thwarted when a problem with his eyesight was discovered.

Having taken German at Higher Certificate level at school (the precursor to A-levels), he was sent to Bletchley Park, where his work involved decoding German weather reports from Balkan airfields. Interviewed about his experiences in 2020 for a Bletchley Park podcast published the following year, he was characteristically modest: “I don’t think my contribution to the war effort was anything more than negligible, if as much as that!”

He served as an interpreter in Germany after the end of hostilities, recalling a 20-minute drive through Hamburg during which he did not see a single building that was untouched by Allied bombing.

On being ‘demobbed’ in 1946, he took up the place that he had previously been offered at The Queen’s College, Oxford, where he read German, with subsidiary French.

Following a brief period of teaching at Felsted School in Essex, he spent ten years as Assistant Master at Manchester Grammar School, before arriving at Queen’s Road, where he remained until his retirement at Christmas 1983. He is pictured, top, on his appointment in 1961.

Writing for The Elizabethan in April 1963, Mr Edwards paid tribute to his predecessor in describing the QE that he had taken over two years before: “Queen Elizabeth’s was a good school first and foremost because Jenkins had left it like that.”

In his new history of the School, Queen Elizabeth’s School: 1573–2023, Dr John Marincowitz (Headmaster, 1999–2011) describes Tim Edwards as “a man of his time”. An advocate of reform, he was an enthusiastic supporter of the national moves towards replacing grammar and secondary modern schools with comprehensives. QE’s first comprehensive intake arrived in September 1971 – six forms replacing the grammar school’s three-form entry.

Dr Marincowitz wrote: “It was to his considerable credit that Edwards virtually doubled the size of the School’s roll, the capacity of its accommodation and the number of teaching staff. Edwards praised the extent of government funding, stating that ‘nothing has been spared in equipping the school for its new role’.” The picture above shows Mr Edwards, left, at the opening ceremony of the Fern Building in 1974.

Dr Marincowitz described Mr Edwards’ management style as “consultative, participative and democratic”. The group photograph shows him with his staff in July 1983.

In the Bletchley Park interview, Mr Edwards explained why he remained at QE for more than half his career: “Having been myself interested in the comprehensive concept, I stayed on: I thought, you know, if I had advocated comprehensive education, I should stay and see it through, so I did.” Under Mr Edwards’ successor, Eamonn Harris (Headmaster, 1984-1999), the School reverted to a fully selective admissions policy in 1994.

Among other reforms Mr Edwards introduced was the abolition of school on Saturdays at QE; the establishment of an elected council to hear pupils’ views; and the modernisation of the curriculum. FQE (The Friends of Queen Elizabeth’s) was established during his headmastership, in 1966. He also oversaw the School’s 400th anniversary celebrations in 1973.

Married to Pat, who pre-deceased him, he had five children.