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News > School News > Professor Mark Bailey (OI 1972-79)

Professor Mark Bailey (OI 1972-79)

"The bursary at Ipswich School Changed My Life"
Photo: George Herringshaw,
Photo: George Herringshaw,

In 1972 the successful 11+ candidates from tiny Dale Hall primary school in north Ipswich were all due to start Northgate Grammar School that September. But my parents had heard that bursaries were available at Ipswich School.

When the offer of a Queen’s Scholarship to Ipswich School arrived in the spring, our family was assessed as requiring 100% remission. A full fee bursary. The family celebrated with a meal at the Martlesham Red Lion, the first time we had dined out for an evening meal.

“My recollection is of seven very busy and happy years.”

My preference to attend Northgate Grammar School with primary school friends was flatly declined. Sometimes adults do know best. The bursary at Ipswich School changed my life. The teaching was inspired. The recent arrival of both a reforming Head—John Blatchly—and a clutch of young, highly able teachers who cared about pupils must have helped.

The encouragement to engage in a wide range of different opportunities, and the exemplification and support available to pursue passions and develop skills, were high. It opened up a world of sports and interests and the culture raised academic aspirations.

“It shaped my lifelong interests and future educational values.”

Ipswich School led to Durham as an undergraduate and to Cambridge for a PhD. I stayed at Cambridge University for 17 years researching and lecturing in medieval history, while also playing rugby for Wasps and England after being coached by the impressive John Nicholson at school.

After lecturing at Cambridge University, I became Head of Leeds Grammar School, and finally High Master of St Paul’s School in London.

“The values I observed and absorbed at Ipswich School have been influential throughout my career in education.”

Ipswich School inspires with high academic standards and aspirations, a strong work ethic, provision of a wide range of opportunities, a culture that promotes engagement in whatever activity is right for the individual, developing interpersonal and life skills through all those activities, bags of encouragement, clear boundaries and direction when needed. Extending bursaries to enable talented children within the local community to benefit from a top education is highly commendable.

Northgate Grammar School was a damned good school; but would I have followed this varied educational career, and gained such pleasure from playing two sports to a high standard if my wishes had prevailed over my parents’?

Definitely not.

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