Jane Panton studied History at Oxford and was Head of Merchant Taylors’ School, Crosby, before being appointed Head of the Girls’ Division in 1994.
“In my beginning is my end”. This line from T. S. Eliot was my school motto at Grammar School. It is prophetic. Before this, I attended four primary schools in Kent and Staffordshire. Upon leaving Grammar School I spent four-terms in the Sixth Form at Merchant Taylors’, Crosby, followed by three years at Oxford, and a year at The Courtauld Institute in London.
I had also begun travelling, working as an au pair caring for children in Vienna, Italy, Switzerland and the USA. At Oxford I had played for the Ladies first teams in tennis and hockey, and was also elected JCR Secretary. All I ‘knew’ about my future career at this point was that I was never going to teach!
Illness made me rethink. After a year teacher training at a college in Walsall, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. So much for giving anyone careers advice!
I came to Bolton School in 1994 after teaching at Shrewsbury, in Bristol and six years as Head of Merchant Taylors’ Girls School. The main reasons were twofold. Bolton School was widely known as the ‘jewel in the North-West crown’ and it gave more bursaries than any school in the country. This is worth remembering in the context of the current bursary campaign.
The School’s own bursary fund, the Assisted Places scheme and the Ogden Trust (where the Girls’ Division was a pioneer member with 10 places per year) made it more socially mixed than many other private schools.
What did you enjoy most about your role here?
What I enjoyed most as Head was working as a team, something I have always loved; there is nothing better than achieving success together; pupils, parents and staff.
What do you think is the most important thing that a Bolton School education gives to its pupils?
At its best, Bolton School endowed its students with a love of learning, often for its own sake and not just exam success. The sheer breadth of its extra-curricular programme, not least the outdoor pursuits activities, pursued at the School’s flagship centre at Patterdale Hall, contributed to an all-round education which was second to none. It also contributes to the notion that we all have strengths and talents which it is the School’s duty to inspire and enhance.
Another strong aspect of education at the School was that of public service. All Old Girls will recognise that ‘much is expected of those to whom much is given’. The sheer size of the School buildings, let alone the numbers of us who worked there made it important to remember ‘always to be a little kinder than necessary’. The close proximity of the Boys’ Division also necessitated the occasional reminder in assembly that ‘kissing and cuddling are not cool in School’.
What would you say is your fondest memory of your time here?
I have many happy memories of my time at Bolton School, but if I have to choose one it would be celebrating our 125th birthday. Our main guests were Lady and Lord Wright ( recently retired Head of the Diplomatic Service ) both of whom threw themselves into proceedings that day; the lunch, the presentations and socialising generally. The sun shone brilliantly as well, it was a special day.
In all, Bolton School was quite simply an extraordinary place in which to work, let alone to lead. To take morning assembly, walking through that beautiful hall with nearly 900 students to the sound of the magnificent organ was such a pleasure and privilege. To celebrate our successes together and, as importantly, to grieve and commemorate at those sad times when a pupil or a member of staff had died, is what it means to be a strong community. It is this that I shall treasure most about the School.
What do you think about Bolton School’s 100 Campaign aim to re-establish genuine open access through its bursary fund?
I like to think that our founder, the first Lord Leverhulme, a Bolton grocer’s son, would be proud of what we have all achieved in keeping close to his original vision.
“In my end is my beginning”.