Obituary - Andrew Stibbs 1939-2011

Adi Bloom

Andrew Stibbs was a polymath. Verbally quick-witted, intellectually formidable and talented in both arts and sciences, he could have pursued any career he wanted. He chose to train teachers.

Born in July 1939, from an early age Andrew delighted in the kind of wordplay that reinforced his image of himself as a schoolyard intellectual.

It was an accurate image: the Bradford schoolboy excelled in arts and sciences, and achieved 98.9 per cent in his art A level. After completing a degree in history and English at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, he could have gone into any profession. He chose teaching because, more than anything, he wanted to make a difference.

He spent 14 years teaching English in the North of England. It was while teaching in Liverpool that he met his first wife, Carol. They went on to have three children, William, Tom and Catharine.

He was a Falstaffian figure: rambunctious, rotund and full of humour. An elected council member of the National Association for the Teaching of English, he would entertain conference delegates by improvising a speech in the style of a Shakespearean character, or a poem in the style of Ted Hughes.

It was at one such conference that he met Christine, his second wife. He caught sight of her as she arrived and spent the remainder of the conference pursuing her. They have one daughter, Olivia.

In 1976, he was appointed advisory teacher for Cleveland local authority, using this time to complete an MA in education at Durham University. Passionate about the comprehensive system, he wanted to ensure that all teachers were prepared for this new type of education. And so, in 1978, he was appointed lecturer at the University of Leeds' School of Education.

He brought enormous enthusiasm to the job, as well as continued fondness for wordplay. Mr Stibbs' classes regularly ended 20 minutes late, collective laughter resounding from behind the lecture-hall doors. Above all, his aim was to persuade students that teaching was the most important job they could do. Despite this, he was consistently humble. He did not congratulate himself for what he did: he simply did it.

He read constantly, consuming knowledge voraciously. Appearing to need little sleep, he would follow a day's teaching by cooking dinner, canvassing for the Labour Party and socialising over beer. He was a prolific poet and reviewed other poets' work for a local magazine, achieving a reputation for sympathetic fair-mindedness.

Never personally ambitious, he was promoted to senior lecturer in 1992. He retired in 2001, but continued to read (the London Review of Books, he always said, was "my comic"), write and, increasingly, paint.

He was being treated for cancer this winter when he caught the superbug that took his life.

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Adi Bloom

Adi Bloom is Tes comment editor

Latest stories

Schools need to be ready for any blame pushed onto teachers by unhappy pupils

GCSE results day 2021: How to handle TAG unhappiness

What should a teacher do if a student blames them for not getting the GCSE grade they think they deserve this year? Tes rounds up advice for those preparing for that possibility
Grainne Hallahan 5 Aug 2021
Teacher assessed grades, TAGs, results day 2021

SQA results day 2021: how we got here

It’s been a frenetic year – with exams were cancelled and the SQA due to be replaced – so here’s a recap of events on the road to results day
Emma Seith 5 Aug 2021