Obituary - John Morgan 1953-2012

Adi Bloom

To his colleagues, John Morgan was always "Tigger". Like A.A. Milne's tiger, the Stockton-on-Tees executive head bounced. And he exuded energy, enthusiasm and a relentless willingness to help pupils learn.

John Morgan was born in June 1953 in the East Riding of Yorkshire. After studying maths at the University of Manchester, he saw teaching as a natural progression: it allowed him to capitalise on his love for his subject and his ease with people. He taught in schools around Stockport and was appointed deputy head of Hull's Wolfreton School in the late 1980s. Then, in 1995, he became head at Conyers School in Stockton-on-Tees.

What pupils recall more than anything else is his constant smile. He was never to be found in his office, but would instead be bounding enthusiastically around school.

He did not shout. Instead, he saw everything as a learning opportunity. When one pupil was sent to his office for misbehaviour, Mr Morgan offered him a mug of hot chocolate. He wanted the boy to discuss and learn from his infractions.

And he could not get exercised about school rules. He had his own way of making a point. "I've never known such a clever student forget that skinny jeans are not Conyers uniform," he told one girl.

His talent was for seeing things from pupils' point of view. When governors suggested erecting a fence around Conyers, he said that he would lead attempts to tunnel out. Any new measures proposed had to be unequivocally in the best interests of pupils. He did not believe in having a school surplus: the money should be spent on existing pupils. As chair of his local schools forum, he insisted that other schools did the same.

Mr Morgan was a very astute political manager and pre-empted a range of national initiatives. By the time self-effectiveness frameworks were introduced nationally, all their measures were already in place at Conyers.

He could, nonetheless, be unguarded. For years, he referred to his 30-something deputy as "my baby deputy". Newly qualified teachers, meanwhile, were "piglets". And he swore liberally (although always with immediate apologies).

When he was inaugurated as national president of the Association of School and College Leaders, therefore, collective staff breath was held as he delivered his speech. But it was polished and professional. His presidency, in 2009-10, was the culmination of decades of work with the headteachers' union. He brought undoubted common sense to the role: he automatically knew what school leaders would think about any issue. "It flowed through his bloodstream," a union colleague said.

Although he suffered from depression, Mr Morgan had a number of extracurricular passions, including sport and gardening. He loved cricketing facts and figures, and had a row of almanacs lined up on his dresser.

John Morgan was found dead on 20 June. He is survived by his wife, Sue, and his sons, Christopher and Andrew.

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Adi Bloom

Adi Bloom is Tes comment editor

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