Obituary - Dennis Holman 1929-2012

27th April 2012 at 01:00

Dennis Holman was a pioneer, taking on a job that was unique in education at the time and making a success of it.

Mr Holman was the founding principal of Cricklade College in Hampshire in 1975, the first purpose-built tertiary college in the country, offering both A levels and vocational courses. He presided over the birth of the college and was heavily involved with the simultaneous closure of the local grammar schools.

Growing up in Bristol, where his father worked as a fire officer, Mr Holman went on to study history at Exeter College, Oxford. After finishing his teacher training, he started work at the independent Felsted School in Essex.

Mr Holman's ambition was always to be a teacher and he was a natural. After Felsted he taught at two more independents, St Albans School in Hertfordshire and Bristol Grammar School, before moving to the maintained sector and taking on the deputy headship of Ellesmere Port School in Cheshire.

In 1965, aged only 36, Mr Holman was made head of Dr Challoner's Grammar School in Amersham, a post he held for seven years. By 1972, he was ready for a new challenge. First he took over at Andover Grammar School in Hampshire, and in 1975 he became the first principal of Cricklade College (now Andover College). At the same time, the area's grammar schools were closed, with a number of his former colleagues from Andover Grammar joining Mr Holman at the new college.

Mr Holman was involved in every aspect of college life - he never missed the annual staff-versus-students cricket match, for example. He was also a committed member of the college choir, in which he sang tenor.

He further demonstrated his commitment by reading and commenting on each and every pupil's progress report. It was this dedication to academic rigour that led to many Cricklade pupils going on to prestigious universities, including Oxford and Cambridge.

But Cricklade was far more than a grammar school in another guise - Mr Holman appointed many young teachers to work there, too. Together they were a strong team, and their principal fostered an ethos in the college that was inspiring, educational and exciting for staff and students alike. This was another reason behind the consistently high student achievement and consistently low staff turnover.

Staff remember the atmosphere at Cricklade College at that time as like a community or even a family. Above all, Mr Holman was a born leader, popular with both staff and students.

He retired from the college in 1989, but kept busy as chairman of the local history group and croquet club. Other interests outside of work included playing rugby and supporting arts in the local community. He was chairman of the Cricklade Theatre Management Committee and directed a college production of The Lark by Jean Anouilh.

Mr Holman died on 12 March following a short illness. He leaves behind his wife, Paddy, his two children, Richard and Patrick, and four grandchildren.

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