‘Head teacher had a love of learning’
Tributes to ‘scholarly’ man who died, 84
A COMMEMORATION service has taken place for a former head teacher of Bishopshalt School.
Dr Leslie Bather died at his home in Iver on Monday, September 8 at the age of 84.
Former Bishopshalt teacher and local historian, Ken Pearce, gave the address.
He told the congregation at Dr Bather’s requiem in St Margaret’s Church, Church Road, Iver Heath, on Friday, September 26 how the accomplished educator had been born in The Wirral, moving to Oxford then Plympton in Devon because of his father’s work.
An able pupil, he later studied at the University of Wales, then University of London Institute of Education before taking his PhD at Manchester University.
After two years in the Army education corps, largely spent in Germany while on National Service, Dr Bather started his teaching career in London at St Clement Danes Grammar School.
While there, he produced a history book on the British constitution with a colleague. It eventually ran to five editions.
A stint at Christ’s College in Finchley followed where among his pupils was the future Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sachs.
In 1970, Dr Bather was given the headship of Bishopshalt, in Royal Lane, Hillingdon.
“We thought: ‘What’s this man going to be like?’” said Mr Pearce.
“He appeared to be a quiet and shy bachelor, who didn’t drive a car and who for the first time in his teaching career was about to meet a mysterious phenomenon – girls! There was no problem. He stayed for 26 years.”
Dr Bather oversaw the transition of Bishopshalt from grammar to comprehensive school, including extensions to school buildings, and then the move to grant maintained status in 1990.
Bishopshalt was a pioneer of this freedom from local authority control and as a result Dr Bather was interviewed a number of times on television and was invited to a Downing Street reception by the then prime minister, John Major.
A great triumph, said Mr Pearce, was the saving and restoration of a dilapidated Victorian conservatory in the school grounds, assisted by a letter from poet laureate Sir John Betjeman.
An extension to the school music block is named in Dr Bather’s honour.
He also served on the Parochial Church Council for the Iver area and as a church warden of St Margaret’s for 10 years.
Dr Bather was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Ecclesiological Society, National Trust and Campaign to Protect Rural England.
Mr Pearce said: “One former pupil has recently described him as ‘scholarly’, and I would agree with that. He had a love of learning; he was a perpetual student.
“It is no accident that the slogan of Bishopshalt School became: ‘Above all else a place of learning’.”
Were you a pupil of Dr Bather’s? If you would like to pay tribute, see page 15 for ways to get in touch, or go to www.facebook.com/ uxbridgegazette
■ COMMEMORATION: Former head teacher Dr Leslie Bather