Tributes to Frank Newby - former head of Horsham’s Forest School - ‘a kind and generous man’

Frank Newby, former headteacher at Forest School, Horsham SUS-180412-105715001
Frank Newby, former headteacher at Forest School, Horsham SUS-180412-105715001

Tributes are being paid to pioneering schoolteacher Frank Newby, former head of Horsham’s Forest School, who has died aged 91.

Frank was headteacher at Forest from 1967 to 1989. When he first started at the school - then known as Forest Boys Secondary Modern - pupils were not expected to do A-levels or go to university.

But Frank believed in helping everyone reach their full potential and went on to establish a sixth form and delighted in seeing many of ‘his boys’ go on to higher education.

Frank was born in Clapham to Alec, an aircraft mechanic, and his wife Dorothy. He was educated at Wallington County Grammar School but his education was interrupted by the second World War. He was evacuated to Bristol which sufffered intense bombing.

Alec moved his family to Harrogate, where Dorothy’s father and brothers ran a decorating business before eventually returning home to Wallington. Frank left school at 16, initially working as a trainee civil engineer in the offices of Peter Lind in London where he was involved in preparing the drawings for Mulberry Harbours.

Frank joined the RAF in 1944 and subsequently went to Loughborough College to train as a PE and maths teacher. There he enjoyed summer breaks camping with his wife, Margaret, in Sheringham where he established a beach lifeguard service.

Teaching posts at Croydon Technical School and then Hazelwick Comprehensive in the new town of Crawley followed. Here he became head of lower school; developed adult education classes; led a group that built the school swimming pool; and acquired a lifelong commitment to comprehensive education, believing strongly that failing an exam at 11 should not limit anyone’s future opportunities.

In 1961 he moved north as headmaster of Eastwood Secondary Modern in Keighley where he established an annual ‘Yard’n Party’ for the school and its community, introduced sailing and camping trips and persuaded the headmistress of Keighley Girls Grammar School to allow some of his brightest boys to transfer into her sixth form.

This was followed in 1967 by his appointment as headmaster of Forest Boys School in Horsham, where he stayed until his retirement in 1989. In addition to setting up the sixth form, Frank pioneered the development of Forest as a community school. His philosophy: schools should provide education for life and create opportunities for all. He was also an innovator in other ways - he was one of the first to build computing into school life and was still attending a local computer club at the age of 91.

On retiring from Forest, he enjoyed several years as an educational consultant. He was awarded the OBE for services to education in 1986.

In later life Frank embarked on several courses of study and research, leading to a Diploma in Education; a Master of Education degree from Manchester University and a PhD from the University of Southampton.

He was also active politically, in Keighley as a member of the Labour Party and in Yorkshire and Sussex as an official of the National Union of Teachers. In retirement, Frank served as a magistrate for many years. He also served as chairman of governors at Muntham House School and a governor at Heron Way Primary and Ashington Primary schools.

He was a life-long advocate for youth clubs – not least because he had met Margaret at one - and on arriving to live in Ashington at the age of 72, he set about establishing one there.

Frank enjoyed the outdoor life and music, becoming a member of the Horsham Royal British Legion band and a number of folk groups. When made a Freeman of the City of London, he chose to become a member of the Worshipful Company of Musicians.

Frank was also for many years a member of Horsham parish church, where he was a churchwarden. More recently, he worshipped in Washington and Ashington.

His daughter Dr Lindsey Davies said: “His determination was his strength and his optimism was infectious. And at heart he was a kind, caring and generous man who encouraged us all to believe in ourselves.”

Frank’s wife Margaret died in 1998 following a long illness which Frank had nursed her through. The following year Frank married Audrey, whom he had first met as one of Margaret’s friends many years before. They had 19 happy years together. Audrey survives him, as do his two daughters; two step-daughters; four grandsons; and five great grandchildren.