A graduate in English Literature and American Studies from Keele University, Margaret Spurr came to Bolton School from Fair Oak School in Staffordshire, where she had been Deputy Head. In 1979 she began her post as Headmistress of the Girls’ Division, presiding over the girls for a period of 15 years. When she took on the position of Headmistress, Mrs Spurr was also a senior Examiner in English A Level for the University of London.
In 1982 Mrs Spurr was appointed to the Committee of the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA), and served on the initial planning committee for the Assisted Places scheme in London, together with members of the Headmasters’ Conference (HMC). She advocated strongly that Bolton School adopt the scheme, introduced by the Conservative Government under Margaret Thatcher in 1981. It was clear from the outset that any future Labour Government would have different plans for the independent sector; and Mrs Spurr was to continue to argue throughout her tenure, in both local and national fora, for the retention of the scheme and the preservation of independent education. In her final Speech Day address, in 1993, she paid tribute to the Sixth Formers on the Assisted Places scheme who had been such a good advertisement for the national project, and to the value of the scheme in enabling girls, who might not otherwise have had the opportunity, to attend the school.
Mrs Spurr’s time as Headmistress saw the completion of an ambitious building programme involving both the enhancement and refurbishment of Beech House and Girls’ Division accommodation (notably the dining room), and new facilities shared with the Boys’ Division. The Sports Hall and swimming pool opened in 1986, and, memorably, the Princess of Wales opened the Arts Centre in 1993. Information technology arrived, and proliferated; and computer studies joined the curriculum. At national level, A Levels were reformed, O Levels disappeared, and GCSEs, the National Curriculum and league tables made their first appearance.
On her retirement, Mrs Spurr said her inspiration as Headmistress had come from three sources:
“First, from you, the girls – from your aspirations, enthusiasm and determination; from your sharp individuality and your strength as a group. From the traditions, established by the founder, of high scholarship, of recognising that girls have distinctive educational requirements, of preparing people to make a contribution to the community. Finally, from the comfort of knowing that I was not on my own but that I had the continual strong support of a team of helpers – the Staff, Sixth Form, Governors, Parents, Old Girls – all eager to make efforts, and indeed sometimes sacrifices, for the good of us all.”
One of her Head Girls repaid the compliment: “My memories of Mrs Spurr are encapsulated in images of a big, happy, successful school, its well-oiled wheels gliding smoothly along, the girls going to lessons, to sport, to drama rehearsals …”
The then Chair of Governors, Lord Haslam, wrote: “Margaret has brought a commendable creative and progressive attitude to the school and indeed to all educational developments. She possesses a unique sense of flair and a lively sense of humour … Working with her has been an enjoyable and uplifting experience”.
Mrs Spurr also possessed an “enviable reputation on the wider educational scene.” Her national profile led to the chairing of a number of significant educational organisations which brought valuable links and benefits to the girls. She served as President of GSA (1985–1986) and Chairman of the national Independent Schools Information Service (1987–90); and as a member of the Advisory Committee of the American Resources Centre, Polytechnic of Central London (1977–90); the Scholarship Selection Committee of the English Speaking Union (1983–94); and the CBI Schools Panel (1985–89). Mrs Spurr was also a Deputy Lieutenant for Staffordshire, and a BBC Governor from 1993 to 1998. The BBC’s mission – “To inform, educate, and entertain” – resonated: “I felt I was moving to another very similar appointment.”
In June 1994, Mrs Spurr was awarded the OBE in recognition of her services to education. One of her favourite memories remains “the lunch-time exodus of infants from Beech House to the dining room. Skipping, hopping, some innocent jostling, some demure pairs holding hands and walking sedately: it was a joy to see the youngest members of the school family, a vignette of an educational progression.”