GRAHAM JONES (1944 - 2023)
Graham Jones, headmaster of Repton for sixteen years from 1987-2003, died on 2 November aged 79, after a long illness bravely borne.
Born on 22 September 1944, he came from a working-class background in Merseyside, and had the opportunity to go to Birkenhead School as a result of the direct grants scheme. There, for the first time in his life, his sights were raised to academic achievement. He was the first member of his family to go to university, taking a First in Economics and a distinction in the P.G.C.E. at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge - and in 1967 he took up a teaching post at Charterhouse. There, he was Head of Economics and Politics, Officer i/c of the R.N. Section and Commanding Officer of the C.C.F. He was also Housemaster of Daviesites, and stayed at Charterhouse for twenty years before becoming Headmaster of Repton in April 1987 at the age of 42.
During his time at Repton he masterminded many major events - the decision to go completely co-educational from thirteen; the merger of Brook House and The Hall; and the move of Mitre boys to The Cross so as to allow a refurbished and extended Mitre to reopen as a fourth girls' house. A new girls’ house, The Garden, had already been officially opened by Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent in September 1992 and five years later, Field House was built to accommodate the increasing number of girls wishing to enter the school. As well as bringing the boarding houses up to date, Graham Jones oversaw the refurbishment of the Chapel, the Old Mitre, and the Grubber and the building of a sports hall, Information Technology Centre, the studio theatre, an enlarged Art School, two all-weather pitches and an indoor swimming pool. The gardens in the Garth were redesigned and restocked and the museum in the Undercroft was extended and improved upon. Other changes were smaller – when he arrived, the bell at the Arch was rung only at the end of lessons, something of which no one really needed reminding. He found that punctuality for lessons was less than ideal, so he had the bell rung for the start of lessons as well. This was typical of his common sense and attention to detail.
His hobbies included painting, listening to music, and walking. He also enjoyed cooking – the more exotic the dish was, the more it appealed to him. He married Vanessa in 1984 and, as well as supporting him in his role as headmaster, she was fully involved in the life of the school and the village.
Graham may have regretted the fact that despite Repton dominating public school tennis during his time in office it never produced a Wimbledon star to match 'Bunny' Austin but he had little other cause for misgivings regarding his record as 'the Boss', whilst his colleagues, students and their parents had very good reason to be thankful for his astute leadership, which proceeded not by means of any reckless leap in the dark but rather by a less spectacular, nimble and sure-footed advance which ensured that due deference to tradition whilst also modernising and diversifying the school.