Ian Shaw: TBSHS 1980-1998
18th March 2019
Ian Shaw, Headmaster between 1980 and December 1998, was the transformative leader at TBSHS, instrumental in raising the School from its secondary modern roots to a high achieving, forward thinking high school with a prestigious reputation. His contribution to the School’s progress and achievements was immense, creating an ethos which has transcended time.
Ian Shaw’s funeral took place on the 1st April 2019 in Darlington. The School was represented at the funeral by many, present and former, staff and pupils.
Ian Shaw addressed the School at Awards Evening , December 2013
Ian Shaw’s sad passing has come as a blow to lots of staff, both past and present. He clearly made a huge impact during his time as Headmaster of the School and will be remembered very fondly by so many former students, parents and governors. He played a massive part in the development and proud history of our School and shaped the ethos we strive to uphold today.
Ian Shaw made a great effort to stay in touch with the School and so many of the staff he worked alongside for eighteen years. He was the guest speaker at our Awards Evening just before I joined the School and was delighted to attend our annual Rugby Dinner a couple of years ago, where he reminisced with great fondness, about his time at TBSHS. His passion for the School and his desire to see it continue to flourish has never diminished, even 20 years after retiring. He has left an incredible legacy, for which I am truly grateful. Our thoughts are with his wife, Barbara, and all of the family at this most difficult of times.
Dale Reeve, Headmaster
Mr Shaw was an inspirational headmaster, implementing many much needed reforms to education in the school. He had a clear vision of what an all-ability school could be and a determination to make sure his vision was realised. To raise the academic profile of the school, two things above all else were needed. First, the school needed to attract pupils from the full ability range, and secondly to teach them, energetic and well qualified staff were required. There was a vital third; he made sure he was known to the students on an individual basis – he knew every student by name throughout the school!
He had a very strong belief that everyone deserved the best education possible, both in and out of the classroom, and did his best to ensure that was the case for every student at TBSHS. Mr Shaw was always passionate about every child who came to the school and every member of staff who worked here. He believed that students can share in a wealth of sporting, dramatic, musical, aesthetic, spiritual, cultural, international and social experiences and achieve well beyond the confines of the classroom. In order to compete with the best schools in the country, the School should provide additional energy and focus to providing opportunities for students to develop personal interests, take on roles of responsibility and leadership and to become involved in the wider life of the School. This vision, to provide a wealth and variety of extra-curricular activities, is an important and intrinsic part of TBSHS life today and our exceptionally well-qualified and dedicated staff continue to set high standards of commitment and expectation.
In his time as Headmaster from 1980 to 1998, he made a huge contribution to the lives of so many pupils during their time at TBSHS and found it particularly rewarding to see students’ progress through the school and achieve success in their A Levels and beyond. His insistence on developing an ethos of high achievement and developing pride in the school, we will always respect and cherish. The School he created has stood the test of time providing a genuine climate of learning so that students come to school expecting to learn, to succeed, to develop exciting talents, to discover hidden ones and to contribute to the enhancement of a unique school community.
Throughout Mr Shaw’s retirement his lifelong loyalty and dedication to the community of the school shone forth.
Paul Noble Deputy Headmaster, appointed by Ian Shaw in 1982
“The Bishop’s Stortford High School is because Headmaster Mr. Shaw was. Thank you to Mr. Shaw, and, of course, Mrs. Shaw, for everything. TBSHS will always stand on the shoulders of these inspirational giants.”
(Simon Etheridge, Eternally grateful to be appointed by Mr. Shaw in 1996)
I remember Ian Shaw, with his glasses on the top of his head, sailing down the corridors with his gown floating behind him, & in the early days a waft of cigar smoke in his wake.
He would stop in the middle of the library to demonstrate a better way to play a particular shot with the cricket bat to someone he had watched play, and then he would just sit down at a library table & go through his post. Not only did he know every student’s name, but he also knew something about them all! He cared so much about each & every student, & each & every member of staff.
It was Ian who had changed the name of the school from “Boys’ High” to TBSHS, & got cross if anyone forgot “The” at the beginning!! This marked a huge turn-round for the school. It had been very much a secondary modern, but Ian soon began to make it feel like a grammar school. At the first parents’ evening after he was appointed, half the teachers didn’t turn up. He apologised profusely to all the parents & assured them that this would never ever happen again; it never did. Although this was a bit before my time, my husband told me this – he was there!
If Ian phoned anyone, he would start in mid-sentence, so it took most of the conversation to work out what he was talking about! This happened because his brain worked so fast, the rest of us couldn’t keep up. He was of course a historian, but was incredibly well-read in everything; and even his general conversation would be peppered with quotations that went over the head of most of us!
When we redecorated the library following the building of the extension, Ian was there with the rest of us, paint brush in hand – that’s the sort of person he was.
His wife Barbara helped me to run the library, so I got to know the Shaws very well over the years & have kept in touch with them through my Christmas letters & Ian’s comments in the Christmas cards. My thoughts are with Barbara, Robin & Geraldine at this very sad time.
School Librarian, appointed by Ian Shaw in January 1989
The present students, staff, parents, governors and the whole community of Bishop’s Stortford owe Ian Shaw a great debt. He took an at best average school and by his inspiration and leadership he oversaw and drove its transformation into something exceptional. He was idiosyncratic driven and sometimes infuriating but he was always a great headmaster. I was honoured to work for him.
Roger Cooke, Former Deputy Headmaster
It was with the greatest sadness that I received this news. I had known Ian for 60 years, as I was a pupil at Sir George Monoux Grammar School when he started his career there in 1958. We lost contact thereafter until I applied for the post of Second Deputy at TBSHS in 1984, not knowing that he was the Headmaster. I consider myself extraordinarily fortunate to have worked closely with him for six years. What a joy and privilege it was!
I have often said that you only need to know one thing about Ian’s achievements, which is that when he entered the School in 1980 the whole of the Sixth Form numbered 36, and when he retired 18 years later it numbered exactly 360. And all aspects of the life of the School: academic standards, sport, music, drama, public speaking and so forth (Ian would never permit the term “etc”.!) improved in proportion. One might add that in 1984 we had just 15 university places, compared to 120 in 1998!
Another thing I frequently say is that if I achieved anything in my own 15 years of Headship at Beechen Cliff School in Bath, it was because of what I learned from Ian, especially in terms of raising standards throughout the life of a school. Ian was extraordinary, charismatic and utterly exceptional. He was my mentor and a very dear friend. I shall miss him enormously.
Roy Ludlow Deputy Headmaster 1984 – 1990
Very sad news indeed. As one of his first pupils he will always be Batman to my generation. It was only on leaving school I realized how brilliant he was. RIP.
Very sad news. A tremendous man and inspirational Headmaster.
My first identifiable mentor and someone who continued to guide me throughout my early adult life. A unique style and a razor sharp mind who transformed a school and left an incredible legacy. Rest easy sir, your work is done.
Love and condolences to Barbara and the family.
Student Teacher 1989
Friend of the School
I was honoured to serve on the PTA and Jobber’s Wood committees with Ian whilst my sons attended TBSHS.
He was a great character, an inspirational headmaster and it was a privileged to have known him.
I will miss his notes and Christmas cards with news and shared memories of great times at TBSHS.
Thank you Mr Shaw.
Very sad news
Very sorry to hear this. Was a great man and did a hell of a lot for the school. RIP
A truly inspirational headmaster. I am proud to have worked
@TBSHS under his leadership.
#RIP Sir. A true legend amongst men.
Sad to read about the passing of Mr Shaw, my old Headteacher from @TBSHS – many fond memories of the man, not least the carol singing at his house and the welcoming drinks.
Mr Shaw still remembered my name and asked after my parents literally decades after I left the school. I will never think of him without hearing the words, “Backlift! Stance!”
Paul Morrison, TBSHS 1987-1994
I was at the School when Mr Shaw arrived. He caused quite a stir because of his fondness for wearing a gown and his slight eccentricities. But beneath all that was a very smart mind working hard to transform the school and make it the best possible place for everyone involved.
I was lucky to be part of the year that he fondly called the ‘annus mirabulus’ because of our record-breaking A-level performances – since surpassed many many times under his leadership. He deserves a lot of credit for that. It wasn’t just about education; Mr Shaw encouraged us to be ambitious and nurtured our confidence.
The culture of the school immediately became far richer under his leadership, in sport, in music but also in general student life. I led a pretty daft campaign to ban school uniforms at the school, which most heads would have ignored – but he gave me the opportunity to present my case, which he patiently listened to me before gently interrogating my argument, and winning me over.
He was also wonderfully tolerant of two drama productions that I wrote and put on in the school with sixth-form friends. They were called Macshaw and Lord of the Coconuts and were parodies of school life borrowing from Macbeth and Lord of the Flies. But while both productions satirised him wildly (as did our unofficial school magazine The Alternative Voice), it was always done fondly.
Mr Shaw encouraged debate and like to drop baffling little comments into conversations, the sense of which only emerged later in a lightbulb moment. He once asked me what books I was reading for pleasure. I said I was reading everything that George Orwell had ever written. ‘Don’t do English at University, Fraser,” he said. “Do history or politics – that’s what you’re really interested in.” It was sage advice that I should have taken, and often thought about later.
As Darren says, we all liked Mr Ian Shaw at the time, and he was impossible to miss, flapping along the corridor in his gown, with a whiff of cigar smoke, addressing boys by name, frequently offering deliberately mischievous, head-scratching comments. Yet it’s only with the benefit of hindsight that we realised what an outstanding headmaster he was and how fortunate we had been to know him. RIP Mr Shaw.
Fraser Allen (1975-83)
He was a great man who will long be remembered at TBSHS, he not only knew the name of every pupil but he knew about us all and cared for us all. Many memories of him – having to play for the 3rd VI rugby team after a mistake with the schedules and having him training us on the lawn outside his office (and reminding us rule changes as most of us hadn’t played in years), him sweeping through the hall, cape flowing for assembly, glasses perched on his head. Standing at the top of the stairs on the Tee corridor and being able to name a pupil right at the far end who was running. The school became what it is because of his care, compassion and drive for everyone to do their best. RIP Ian Shaw.
Neil Hollis – 1987-1994
Sad day. He was a magnificent beast of a man. Best head teacher ever.
A surprise to say the least and sad to hear. I remember him taking over from Mr Davies in my second year. Mr Shaw did a lot to improve the school’s reputation but, like so many others, I didn’t appreciate it fully until I left.
Keith David Nicholls
So sad to hear of Ian’s death but so glad to have had a son at school during his time and to have been a governor then too. Wonderfully eccentric at times but so passionate about the school and its sport. My son told me about impromptu training sessions in the corridors depending on the season, from a practice lineout to revisit the previous Saturday’s game, to a forward defensive. He gave the school real character which has continued and blossomed. You can feel it!
Ian Shaw interviewed me and offered me the role of leading Business Studies in 1990. He was a unique rather eccentric headmaster and reminded me often of the classic/ old school world of gowns and tradition. He was a man of his word and generous with the people he worked with and the children who were lucky enough to be part of his school. His ability to motivate was undisputed. He selected teachers because he believed they could and would make a difference to the learning of the children in his care. Jackie Leavers, later Jackie Shaw was one of the extraordinary carers that he took on to look after the disaffected and struggling students. She was one of the few people to break the glass ceiling for women in secondary school management. Ian helped make that happen. His care was significant. His love for sport came to fruition in the delivery of Jobbers Wood which is a wonderful resource few state secondary schools could imagine accessing today. I think TBSHS will always will be infused by Ian Shaw’s influence, despite the fact that all of the students now were not even alive when he retired! I was privileged from time to time by a few moments of personal/private discussion with him. He could and would challenge ideas in a rational academic way. As a historian he was able to make strong arguments for the things he believed in of which giving EVERYONE an opportunity to shine in one way or another was the core of his pedagogical approach. Now it is too late to say thank you to him in person, for which I am sorry. My sincerest condolences to Barbara and their children who I am sure are very proud and very sad at this time.
Frank Beran (Business Education Subject Leader 1990-2017)
Please can I offer my condolences, thoughts and prayers to the Shaw family, to you and all colleagues who worked so closely with this great man and to the entire TBSHS family.
I may no longer work at TBSHS, but I am a proud former student and even proud form teacher of the black and gold. Having worked with Dale, and working with the fantastic head I have now here at St Ivo, I can only imagine how lucky and fortunate you all were to have worked with someone like Mr Shaw.
My tribute to Mr Shaw is simple, I was at the school from 1997 to 2003. Mr Shaw it appears was only my headmaster for one year. That has left me stunned, because I always thought I had him throughout my KS3 and KS4. Such was his character that I hold him as my headteacher to this day.
‘Abedin! Are you doing cricket in the summer?’
Rest in Peace Mr Shaw
Ian Shaw’s achievements at The Bishop’s Stortford High School are the stuff of legend. Through shrewd appointments, insisting on the right ‘standards’, some local politics but most of all by inspirational leadership, Ian transformed the sleepy and under-achieving Bishop’s Stortford Boys’ High School into The Bishop’s Stortford High School as we know it today – a high-achieving, forward thinking centre of excellence with a prestigious reputation.
The school grew out of all recognition from the initial roll of less than five hundred 11-16 year olds to over twelve hundred 11-18 year olds with a Sixth Form of three hundred and fifty. New buildings to include a sports hall, sixth form centre, on site pavilion, the Newton block and Jobbers Wood were acquired along the way. Today the School must move to a new site in order to accommodate its ambitions (something Ian Shaw identified and attempted in 1990’s), and in doing so the School should not allow his immense contribution to its development to go unmarked.
But I am forever indebted to Ian Shaw for the great personal faith he showed in me and for the challenges he set that I could never have imagined when I joined that secondary modern school in 1972. But that was his style. When he made an appointment he would give them their head and let them get on with it – a policy that reaped great dividends in so many departments.
TBSHS Teacher, Senior Bursar, Director of Examinations, etc. 1972-2008
I left the school in 1991 but have as recently as last week mentioned some of Ian Shaw’s reports on me, including “occasionally brilliant”, and “a good, if somewhat loquacious, report”.
Being in possession of an uncommon surname, it turned out that he taught one of my relatives in his early career at George Monoux.
I am very sad to hear the news, but it has also been fantastic to read the other tributes, that have brought so many memories flooding back from my time at TBSHS. Looking back I remember Mr Shaw as an inspiration figure. His energetic drive and passion to continually improve the school and its pupils created an institution which punched above its weight both academically and on the sports field. His vision saw us playing rugby against (and often beating) top tier public schools who, traditionally, we had no right associate ourselves with, and he would always be there on the touchline supporting. He was continually visible in and around the school, for example, taking the time to prowl the corridors during lesson changes, learning everyone’s name (whilst simultaneously intimidating everyone he came into contact with…even the teachers!).
He continually encouraged us, and crucially gave us the confidence to aim high, for the very best careers and universities we could achieve. Only retrospectively do I realise how much I have gained from the institution which Mr Shaw built. Thank you Mr Shaw, you will be sorely missed.
Very sad news. So many generations of TBSHS pupils, me included, owe Mr Shaw so much. A great teacher, leader and motivator, inspiring (and striking fear into!!!) students and teachers alike to be the best they could be. He knew every pupil’s name, was on the touchline every weekend, and was always visible around the school, firing A level combinations at you in the corridor for uni applications “Phys, chem, bio!”, “double maths, phys, chem!”. He even took the trouble to phone me, after he had retired, to congratulate me on my university place. Great memories, thank you.
When someone says the word “headmaster” I think of this man. Thank you Sir, you were tough but your ways are needed today more than ever! Him walking the corridors with gown in full flow is a glorious memory. Everytime he would see me I just remember all he’d say is “Abedin!” and everytime I expected he was about to tell me off or say somehting important but off he’d continue on his way.
TBSHS student 1994 to 2002
Mr Shaw was the most eccentric and inspirational person I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.
I am very grateful to him for all the amazing school memories.
V sad to hear this. A wonderful man and a wonderful role model to many of us. RIP sir.
The inspirational headmaster of @TBSHS has passed away. His impact on thousands of young lives will be his legacy. RIP Mr Shaw.
This news saddens me greatly. My thoughts are with Ian Shaw’s family. He was a man who’s thoughts, musings, debates and eccentricities still shape and contribute to my life today. A man who will be greatly missed by all those who knew him.
A very kind and Dear Heart, Mr. Shaw also allowed me back after expelling me! Bon Voyage Sir!
Mr Shaw was an incredible Head Master – a man who inspired me both as a student and as teacher. I have so many memories of him while I was a student at the School. Just to highlight two – being berated for playing the hymn in assembly either too loudly, too quietly, too fast or too slow (it was always his joke) and him being furious with me for missing the first Oxbridge meeting when I hadn’t even considered applying to Oxford (he only forgave me after I was offered a place).
When I was on my teacher training placement in Braintree, I was summoned to the office to receive an “urgent” phone call from an Ian Shaw – I had heard nothing from him since leaving the school in 1991 but somehow he knew that I was doing my PGCE and exactly which school I was training at. This resulted in an interview the next Saturday morning in the pavilion during which I think he offered me a job.
So after, 7 years as a student I returned to the School to teach Chemistry. Ian’s approach to education really helped me formulate my own ethos and I always imagined that one day I could be a Head Master like him. However, Old School Head Masters simply don’t exist in education these days and it soon became clear when working with subsequent headteachers, that the job today has very different kinds of demands and expectations.
So with grateful thanks to a man who I still hold in great affection, RIP Ian Shaw, B.A.
TBSHS Student: 1984-1991
TBSHS Teacher: 1997-2005
Great Headmaster with a nice sense of humour, always remember attending my first “Parent of a prospective 6th form student” meeting, where he discussed reading newspapers “Broadsheets were for reading & Red Tops were for wrapping up fish & chips” on my 2nd such meeting he used the same example but spotted me in the audience & I had to deliver the punch line !!!
Jan Zelezinski (Ex BS Secondary Modern) !!
Ian was Deputy Head at Whitby School in the late 70’s and I was privileged to be one of his History pupils at that time.
The man was truly inspirational and he above anybody nurtured my love of History, and developed it into a life-long passion – I will be forever indebted to him.
In addition to his passion for Education and History, his quirky sense of humour was never far from the surface, and I cannot help but smile about some of the other comments that have been posted in tribute. Even now 40 years later, I still have happy memories about the long conversations we had about Geoff Boycott’s ability to seemingly bat all day for England, and the merits of his unequalled defensive batting technique! If not that, it was a discussion about the latest TV presentation on the causes of WW1 by the renowned historian AJP Taylor.
My one claim to fame is that I once beat him at a game of Chess – but it was only once!
If ever anybody wants to hack my internet accounts, I am going to give you all a massive clue – One of the regular security questions is ‘’Who was your favourite Teacher’’? – Can anybody guess my answer!
Rest in Peace – Top Man
I am very sad to hear this news. Mr Shaw was a wonderful man and truly dedicated to TBSHS. He was a very kind and caring person and really cared about all his students and staff (even after they left TBSHS). I was appointed by Mr Shaw in 1993 to join his staff. I am very grateful to have been given the opportunity and privilege to work with him under his leadership. He was an exceptional Headmaster and a fantastic boss to work for. I have many fond memories of him and my time at TBSHS and I will never forget him. My thoughts are with Barbara and his family at this very sad time.
My TBSHS memories are full of fond images of Ian Shaw, a true British eccentric. Greeting us with seemingly random comments in the Tee corridor (until our brains caught up with his), taking first year cricket and rugby, knowing every pupils name, the deafening silence the fell upon the library when he entered, the promptness with which we all stood up when he entered a room. He had the upmost respect of students, teachers and parents alike. His legacy will live on through the many generations he has inspired.
Thank you, Sir.
James Billing 1993-2000
I’ve just heard the sad news of Mr Shaw’s passing. My memories are so similar to other people’s, but still so vivid… not just the flowing gown, but the awful, 1970s tracksuit that he wore when deciding to ‘help out’ with Games. His knowledge not only of names, but of a snippet of information about every student, was legendary. He was always completely up to date. He used to ask me how my clarinet playing was coming on, but shortly after I gave up, I got asked about my cricket instead. His grasp of what went on in his school was amazing. And it was HIS school. The pride I have in being a TBSHS alumnus is completely down to the community that he built. So sad to hear of his passing, but the school’s continued success provides a fantastic legacy to a great man.
An inspirational, quirky yet totally passionate man, Ian Shaw was an amazing character that drove TBSHS into a new stratosphere of education. From the time I started in 1983 the school changed immeasurably in the 7 years I attended. Concert Band Tours to Hungary and Holland, Cricket Tours, the Ski trips under Mr Wickens’ leadership, the sporting accolades and of course the rise in academic standards Ian Shaw never stopped pushing the school forward to bigger and better things. My proudest moment was when my twin brother Gavin, and I, received the Headmaster’s Prize in the Final Sixth Assembly for our contribution to Music and Sport. This has led us into careers in teaching, Gavin now working as a Head of Music in an international school in Abu Dhabi and me as a Deputy Headmaster of a preparatory school in Winchester. RIP Mr Shaw- you inspired a generation and the Greenaway Twins!
The wonderful experiences I had at TBSHS, both as a student and volunteer teaching assistant, really are some of the best in my life.
There are countless examples of Mr Shaw’s impact on my life, one of them being his intervention so I could sit my GCSE English examination later in the day due to long-term illness.
I asked Mr Shaw if I could continue to volunteer at TBSHS once my time had ended as a student. This was because, as is still the case, I was unable to work due to chronic illness and disability. He sat me down in the Foyer and proceeded to interview me! After the interview, he said I could continue to volunteer. I was so happy. This was the best and possibly the most impossible thing I had ever asked for. I could see a stable future for me and the work I loved doing in a career I still hope to pursue should I recover.
The next day, still elated and still a student, I went into the computer rooms to continue helping. I was told, much to my utter astonishment, that Mr Shaw had made it clear I was to be classed as a member of staff (de facto). That meant I would be able to go behind the scenes at TBSHS. Yes – the staff room! It took me two weeks to pluck up the courage to go into the staff room after starting! Behind the scenes was amazing, and it was such an experience having been a student and then working there. Being able to see the School from both sides is something only a few have been able to experience. But in that, the School and its staff were the same on both sides.
Ian was the leader of a large team of dedicated people that made that all possible. For that, and all of the things he did for us far beyond that expected of a Headmaster, my family and I will be forever grateful.
“In silence, please stand.” Rest in peace, sir.
ICT Support Assistant, 1998–2000
I was saddened to hear of Ian Shaw’s passing. I had the good fortune to be appointed to my first position at TBSHS in 1988 by Ian and could not have had a better start in teaching. My four years at the school under Ian’s guidance and astute leadership shaped me for the rest of my career. The school I joined was a marvellous place to work. I became one of the ‘Brick House Boys’ who along with other young staff were nurtured and inspired by Ian to take risks, be bold and to challenge our students to achieve great things. In assemblies, in prayer, staff and students alike were encouraged to “hold fast to everything that is good”; Ian led the way in doing so.
Ian had the knack of knowing something (usually quite a bit) about everyone and everything in the school. He would identify key achievements of boys (and young ladies in the sixth form) and unashamedly promote them as examples to the rest of the school. Small boys were asked “elevate” (stand) in assemblies as Ian would tell all present about their inspirational moment of “brilliant” tactical genius on the rugby or cricket field. Years after I left, whenever I met Ian, he would pin-point certain events as seminal in the development of the school: Warren’s try at Hitchin, our first win at Cooper’s, Trigg’s century, the First Fifteen visiting the Burrell collection in Glasgow. He saw contextual significance in everything.
Ian knew that as much as the boys needed educating so did their parents. So he could be seen every Saturday working the touchlines and boundaries, cultivating, politicking and manipulating support for the school. Occasionally he would admonish those parents who dared to criticise the referee. He won the parents over and succeeded in recruiting many who contributed significantly to the school’s development, not least the Harlow mafia and the Scottish clan.
One of Ian’s legacies was the number of staff that he appointed who went on to become Head teachers or deputies later in their careers. There were many dozens! He was an astute judge of character. He once told me that recruitment of staff was the most important part of his job. It may have reflected a certain bias but we had a pretty good staff cricket team at the time!
I visited TBSHS last year and it was great to see the school flourishing. So much of what Ian Shaw created has remained, not least the values that he strove so hard to instil. It is with great fondness that I remember my time there; they were halcyon days. My thoughts go to Barbara and the family.
Teacher and Senior Physical Education Master 1988-1992
Very sad news I was secretary to the PTA for a short time he did so much for the school.RIP
I’ve only just read the news of Mr Shaw’s passing, and as everyone else, am deeply saddened.
As a student that meekly sailed under the radar, I generally didn’t have much personal interaction with Mr Shaw however, I remember well his eccentric moments, including when he burst into a lesson to excitedly announce Thatcher had resigned. He was a teacher that certainly had great respect for students with talent and endeavour, but perhaps an even warmer spot for students that had, to put it politely, character and a glint in their eye. But my abiding memory will be my one direct and warm conversation with him on my very last day, on asking my name he enquired if I was indeed my brother’s brother, he then recalled that my brother had gone on to Portsmouth University. Astounding considering my brother had left the school 6 years earlier.
Ian Shaw appointed me in the early years of his headship before he developed fully his unconventional approach to interviewing. The panel consisted of local authority advisers, governors and Headmaster. When I was asked if I would accept the job, Ian leant back in his chair so that no-one except me could see him and nodded his head vigorously. As he did with so many others, he put his trust in me and the next fifteen years were the most exhilarating of my career.
He believed in us and we – staff, pupils, and parents – believed in him and his vision for the School. As with the best teachers, he had the priceless ability to inspire others in such a way – a word or note of praise; a restless, persistent desire to aim ever higher; a deep understanding of what it is to be human – that the fortunate recipient would find themselves achieving something they never thought possible. So many blossomed under his guidance and Ian took great delight and pride in their development and that of the School.
One memory of many that comes flooding back. He kept everyone, students and staff, on their toes. Even in assembly (especially in assembly) it was an unwise teacher who let their mind drift – “tell us about the General Studies speaker last week, Mr Etheridge” or even, “Mr Smith …”. One quickly learnt to be prepared. Assemblies, of course, were important in the life of the School: delightfully described by Melvyn Bragg as an “unconscious education through the magnificent language of the King James Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, the hymns”, they provided a wonderful opportunity for the Headmaster to set the tone and establish the ethos.
For those reading these tributes who never knew him (and to bring a smile of recognition to those who did), I’d like to finish with an insight to the man through his own words. On Thursday, 17th December 1998, at the final event of a week of celebrations to mark his outstanding leadership of The Bishop’s Stortford High School, Ian Shaw addressed Governors, parents, staff, local teachers, councillors and supporters of the School. Unusually, and exceptionally in his eighteen years as Headmaster, he finished his speech by talking about himself:
I went to Primary School with Ken Taylor who was to open for Yorkshire and England and played centre half for Huddersfield Town. Ian Shaw left King James’s Grammar School, Almondbury on 31st August 1946. His birthday was 23rd June. He was Head Boy. I arrived on 1st September 1946, my birthday is 23rd June. The Headmaster’s birthday was 23rd June. I suppose the die was cast. Another Headmaster, Harry Taylor, made me Head Boy – he taught me probably all I knew – how men can be greater than they think in spite of themselves, how they can achieve more than they can dream if they dream at all, and how they can enrich our lives if we can encourage them to fulfil their talents and fulfil themselves.
Thank you all for the joy you have brought to this School, The Bishop’s Stortford High School, but above all, I thank the Staff for the joy they brought in the morning, the joy they brought in their scholarship and their craft, the joy they brought in their music, drama and sport, the joy they brought in the afternoon and the joy they brought in the evening and the joy they brought in the pub – the home, said AJP Taylor, of Common Sense.
It is very sad that this remarkable man is no longer with us but how fortunate we were to have known him.
Peter Smith, TBSHS 1983-2008
The growing number of tributes to Ian Shaw on the TBSHS website is evidence of the huge respect and affection for him from former pupils and their parents, from former staff and from current staff who either knew him well or knew him by reputation.
I was privileged to serve as a Governor during the 1990s/early 2000s, whilst my son and my daughter attended the School. TBSHS shaped their future and how fortunate they were to have been able to be there. It was by then well-known that Ian Shaw had led the transformation of the School from an average secondary school to a sought-after Grant-maintained school which was significantly over-subscribed. This transformation was not without its controversy, but the impact was clear for all to see and the results spoke, and continue now to speak, for themselves. It was in no small measure the product of Ian Shaw`s vision of what needed to be, and could be, achieved and his ability to lead a group of dedicated staff – a mixture of the established professionals who shared his vision and newly-appointed young teachers, so many of whom have now achieved great things in their careers at TBSHS and on into the wider world. I know that Ian was just as pleased about their success as he was about the success of the many young men and young ladies who passed through his School.
He was, of course, an idiosyncratic leader. That shines through in these tributes. I am sure that current school leaders would not disagree that his approach is not likely to be seen again soon. But the underlying philosophy – that all young people should have the opportunity to achieve either academically or artistically or in sport, or in all of those – is, I think, the same now as it was when he set about the transformation of the school to become TBSHS.
Ian Shaw was an inspiration to his staff, to his pupils and to their parents, and he knew how to get the best out of his Governing Body as well. The message that stands out from every one of these tributes is “I am pleased, and lucky, to have been at TBSHS when Ian Shaw was there.”
I will miss deciphering the cryptic Christmas messages!
Condolences and love to Barbara, Robin and Geraldine.
Outside my own family, Ian Shaw had a bigger impact on my life than anyone else.
I arrived as a green probationary teacher in 1987 and was immediately told to take on the RE department. I lacked self-confidence in those days and could easily have spent the rest of my career doing as little as possible; Ian Shaw would have none of this and saw something in me that I didn’t. With his guidance, encouragement, and generosity (he even let me have a few of his cigars over the years!), he pushed me through the ranks and, when I left the school, I was Senior Master.
But I never would have made much of myself in teaching without him. I went on to two deputy headships and served under five headmasters in all; none of them even began to compare to him. I left teaching in 2008 as a result of ill-health; Ian continued to keep in touch and did so until his death. (I never called him by his Christian name until I’d left TBSHS; while I was there, he was always just “Headmaster”.)
I can’t believe he’s gone.
He could be caustic at times but he never bore a grudge; his general reaction to my sillier proposals was to say, beaming, “That’s bollocks, Danes.” And yet he was one of the kindest men I’ve ever known: his vision was inspired by his deep-rooted Anglicanism; he was someone who tried very hard to love his neighbour — in particular, the pupils and the staff — as himself. We shared a love of Alan Ayckbourn and he was hugely supportive of the plays we mounted; few heads these days would come to every performance of every play. He appointed my wife Duvessa to the English staff in 1993. We are both going to miss him very much.
Times change. TBSHS under Ian was never a school that simply aimed to tick off the boxes in the OFSTED handbook; it was never an examinations factory, either. It was much broader and deeper. We tried to follow Ian’s lead and make the school the best it could be. It was certainly the best school I have ever worked in, in both the state and independent sectors.
Rest in peace, old friend, and thank you — for everything.
Head of RE, and variously Deputy Head of Sixth Form,
Head of General Studies,
Head of Middle School and Senior Master
Like so many, I was greatly saddened to hear of the death of Ian Shaw.
It was my privilege to work with the school during the 1990s, when it was part of the IQEA project, a school improvement network coordinated by Cambridge University. In those days I was a regular visitor to the school where, driven by Ian’s unquenchable ambition, staff developed a number of interesting and innovative practices, benefiting both the school and, with the wider dissemination of their experience through the network, the wider educational community. However, I rarely got in and out of the building without Peter Smith telling me that ‘the boss’ would like me to drop in for a chat while I was there.
Reading these moving and affectionate tributes, I must concede that he may indeed have cut a somewhat eccentric figure in the LEA liberated but OfSTED oppressed education system of the nineties, though, probably because we shared similar schooling backgrounds and teachers swooping around corridors in gowns did not strike either of us as unusual, it was not something I really noticed at the time. However, while some of his habits may have been rooted in the rituals that the oldest grammar schools inevitably acquire over some four hundred odd years of educating elites, under his stewardship BSHS was transformed into an outstanding but wonderfully modern and thoroughly diverse high school. His fierce determination to demonstrate that individual talents can be nurtured and individual needs addressed in a community that is, nevertheless, unashamedly meritocratic, brought a marvellous mix of challenge and opportunity to staff and pupils alike.
My own abiding memory of Ian is arriving at the school sometime around 8.45am, one balmy summer morning, and finding him out in the cricket nets, turning over his arm against the keener members of the junior cricket teams, who had arrived early for a spot of batting practice before school- an activity he was clearly enjoying.
As we walked into the school he asked me if I knew of any pleasure greater than helping others to become better at something than you are yourself, or any job with more opportunity to do this than teaching.
He will be missed, to be sure; but there are many still here who face life with a straighter bat because of his influence.
Professor Mel West FRSA
Manchester Institute of Education
University of Manchester
I’m going to confess that this is the umpteenth attempt at writing what I hope is a fitting tribute to wonderful Headmaster.
Why am I battling to put pen to paper? I ask myself.
Do I fear that my writing skills and grammar would likely offend him? Absolutely.
Is the breadth of my vocabulary sufficient to articulate his brilliance as a leader and mentor? Not even close.
Will any number of adjectives truly reveal the full extent of his influence? No.
If I’m brutally honest, the real reason I’m struggling and I’m ashamed to say it – I never properly thanked him.
He created a culture that enabled staff and pupils to thrive, installing values that transcend time and characteristics that have defined the paths and successes of so many. This is true leadership and a legacy befitting a man who dedicated his life to the sharing of knowledge.
Thank you Headmaster.
Ian Shaw was, quite simply, an amazing headteacher. Having been at the boys’ high from 1985-1992 there are so many memories of Ian Shaw it is difficult to know which to include.
For example, in my younger years at TBSHS I was knocked off my bike, and indeed unconscious, on Thorley Hill while cycling home with my friends. As I regained my awareness lying at the side of the road, I realised that Mr Shaw was there, even before the ambulance was.
I used to be a paperboy and Mr Shaw lived along Cricketfield Lane and his house was on my round. One morning he stopped assembly halfway through, paused, and looked around the school hall seeking me out. He then proceeded to complain with enthusiasm, and a twinkle in his eye, in front of the whole school that he didn’t receive his (wife’s) Woman’s Weekly that morning, and when did I plan to sort that out?
During my A-levels I felt sure he changed his drive to school on two or three occasions to go over Chantry Road – my walking route – to offer a lift and persuade me to join the Oxbridge class that he was starting up. I never did join the class, but I do remember he met each A-level student personally on results day to congratulate us.
I went on to university to study Maths and whilst in my second year I was pondering becoming a teacher. Ian Shaw took time out from running a school to write to me personally to impart his wisdom and encourage me in my career choice. He even enabled me to do my first teaching practice in TBSHS where my biggest barrier was my own psychological one of walking into the staffroom at breaktime and discovering that all teachers had first names.
I recall his assemblies ending with quotes or prayers, such as: “to toil, and not to seek for rest; to labour, and not to ask for any reward; save that of knowing that we do thy will” and “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
I have now been teaching over 20 years and am now part of a leadership team in a school in Buckinghamshire. My understanding of how schools should be has been largely shaped by his leadership of the school I attended. I now end my own school assemblies with the same words Mr Shaw used; echoes from my childhood, from my head teacher who chose to get to know me – just one of thousands of students – and chose to encourage me in both my career and my lifetime.
Even someone who had never met Ian Shaw would read the comments on this page and realise that he was an inspirational man who achieved something that so many others have tried, and failed to do. Before Ian Shaw (and a long time before I joined the school) TBSHS did not have the best of reputations locally. Then Ian Shaw joined. From what I understand he turned the school around and when I joined in 1994, until I left in 2001, there is no doubt it fundamentally changed me as a person and likewise so many of my peers.
What Ian Shaw truly understood is that while a school should clearly teach it’s students academic ability and achievements, it takes far more to achieve a well rounded individual, especially in the world we live today where so much has become about “league tables”. He understood that building a successful young man ranged from learning in the classroom, achieving in your exams, having a firm handshake, looking people in the eye, maintaining good values and excelling at extracurricular activities, including sport, music, drama to name a few. For me, he, with the strong staff team he built and inspired, created an ethos that taught you to work hard, respect people, aim for the sky, not to be scared, follow your dreams and try to achieve, give and gain as much as you can from life.
One of my fondest memories, strangely, of Ian Shaw is the day he stood outside one of the toilet blocks, I can’t remember whether it was “Churchill” or “Bastille”. I was in the wrong year for the toilets (used to be years 1-3 in one set and 4-5 in another). He said “Sam Prior?”, I said “Yes, Sam Prior”, he said “Year”, I said “Year 4” and he said “Wrong toilets boy, go and see my secretary and get a Head of Year”. The memory is still fresh for me today. He taught discipline but also team spirit and fun. It is still fundamental to the “Work hard, play hard” culture I instil in my business today. He always kept you on your toes, knew your name and knew your story. When I was made Deputy Head Boy in 1999, I still remember knocking on his office door and him saying “Come in Prior”.
Today, my stepson is a pupil at TBSHS and it has a very good Headmaster in Dale Reeve. When I walk around the school now, so many years after Ian Shaw was pacing the corridors, it very much still has the same feeling (ethos) of hard work, believe, respect, effort, achievement, team spirit and fun as it did in the days when I walked the same corridors.
Rest in peace Mr. Shaw. You achieved so much and are so fondly remembered by so many, and deservedly so. My thoughts are with your family who no doubt supported you tremendously while throwing yourself into life at TBSHS.
Respice, Aspice, Prospice
I was saddened to hear of the loss of such a great man. I am thankful for his leadership and for him appointing so many of the wonderful staff who directly made such an impact upon me, having been taught by Mr Noble, Mr Danes, Mr Dodds, Miss Heller, Mrs Vaughn, Miss Welch and Mr Thompson amongst others and most significantly to me Mr Hows. Legends one and all. I was fortunate enough to have not only been taught by Mr Shaw, politics – very scary, but also by dear Mrs Shaw. Thank you for nurturing my early love of science, sorry for talking in class, I was listening. Thank you for your support and love you showed to the school. My heartfelt condolences are with you and you family.
A few words cannot really do justice to the life long affect that Mr Shaw had, not only on my life, but on that of countless staff and students. I first encountered Mr Shaw on a June Summer’s Day when I arrived for my Sixth Form interview with the Head of Sixth Form, Steven Munday. It was safe to say it was like encountering the man from Delmonte in his beige suite. He uttered very few words but what I do remember is “Faiers, we don’t just play Rugby at this school. We have other sports and other activities for you to engage with”. I actually didn’t realise that he was the Headmaster – just some mad professor. I was fortunate enough to be part of the vocational route through education that Mr Shaw and Jackie Farrell-Shaw believed in. He was passionate about giving everybody the opportunity to reach their goals through whatever route was available. I spent three wonderful years at the school where his passion and vision for students to pursue higher education was instilled in me. Having left University I was lucky enough to be offered the opportunity to go back to the School to work whilst I explored the possibility of training to be a PE teacher. Without Mr Shaw’s ethos and values for the foundation of my education I would not be in the position I am now working in a job which I love and, hopefully, taking some of his thoughts and beliefs and passing them on to the next generation.
I was really saddened to discover, yesterday, that Ian Shaw had died. My son is now 47, but Ian Shaw’s character is firmly stamped in my memory. He was a great man and a wonderful head.
Several years after my son had left TBSHS, I met Ian by chance. He still remembered family details and asked with interest after him.
Two or three things stick in my mind when I think of Ian. One was the electrifying way he had during parents’ evenings of keeping his staff on their toes. There came a moment when with a deafening noise he brought parent/teacher consultations to a standstill. With his glasses perched above his eyebrows, sometimes using a word or phrase that I would have to look up when I got home, he would launch into his talk. Then at some unpredictable point, his address would come to an abrupt end with the shout of the name of the poor, unfortunate teacher, who was expected to follow him!
Another memory concerns the fact that all A level students had to do a weekly sport’s session. I greatly admired the way he allowed my non-athletic son to choose as his sport, snooker. He and his friend went up to the local Working Men’s Club for this activity and from time to time a member of staff would appear to make sure they were actually playing. How brilliant was that?
A further memory concerns our local Rector who arrived to take a school assembly and was asked by Rosemary to sit on one of two chairs outside the Head’s study. After a few moments a man sat silently down next to him, also waiting. Several minutes later, Ian (for it was he) turned to the clergyman and, indicating the study door, said “Shall we go in?”
Because I discovered yesterday that there was a memorial service today, I was able to go along to say my goodbyes. Ian was unforgettable and we were so lucky to have had him in charge at the optimum moment. That there were so many people there this afternoon for the excellent service, was a fitting tribute to a charismatic man who will never be forgotten.
I learned today of Mr Shaws passing from a random conversation with a stranger some 50 miles from Bishop’s Stortford. I look back with fond memories of our occasional meeting in the corridors – he always knew your name, even if you had not ever spoken to him before – he would know you and about you and in a friendly way he would ask you questions about how you were getting on.
He was everything a Headmaster should be, fairly terrifying to an 11 year old, but by the time you left TBSHS, you realised he was a giant of a man who saw what your future could be.
1st September 2020
TBSHS pupil from 1988-1995
Dear Headmaster, “Ian” in later years:
I’ve been thinking about you today again: I instantly admired you and liked you, then I cared about you,
then I loved you. I’m still learning now because of you. You spotted talent at lightning speed, you nurtured it,
encouraged it, cajoled it, provoked it!
TBSHS was my first teaching post: What more could any new teacher want?
Inspirational, energising and totally exhausting sometimes! A truly special man to remember with
love and admiration.
TBSHS 1993-2002: English & Theatre Studies teacher,
Head of Year, ‘Senior Mistress’
15 June 2021
I sadly only learned recently of Ian Shaw’s passing. I was a pupil at Whitby School and Ian was one of my history teachers. He was the most influential and inspiring teacher I ever had and if there is any rigour in my thinking, it was nurtured by Ian. RIP, a wonderful man. My belated condolences to his family.
5th December 2021
Please click to read Dr M Sewell’s Eulogy Tribute from Ian Shaw’s Memorial Service.