Where Are They Now?

9th March 2001 at 00:00
He was not scared to speak out and his personal style - not to mention his wife's revelations - kept him in the limelight

His claim to fame?

He was Britain's best-known headmaster, not least in the independent sector, during his 16 years at Westminster School.

Why?

His dashing appearance and confrontational style, plus his eye for publicity, gave him a high public profile. He led with panache, recalled a fellow head.

Any examples?

He took a strong line on drugs in his first term in London (when hippies were still at large). He opposed the Tories' Assisted Places Scheme, rejecting the idea that it would build a bridge between state and private sectors: "You don't provide a link with a school by stealing its best pupils against its will." (TES, January 1984). He accused Britain of having the worst state education system in the world and said many independent schools were more like refugee camps than educational establishments.

Didn't his wife also hit the headlines?

Oh, yes. Her book about public schools, A World Apart, in 1983 caused "a furore". Dr Rae wrote in his 1993 autobiography: "The fact that what she had to say was true did not make the references to homosexuals in the common room ... any less provocative."

Did that lead to calls for his resignation?

It cetainly brought discontent among some staff and governors to a head. He was quietly told it would be wise for him to look for another job within two years.

Did he go? Not without a fight and only after securing a job as director of the Laura Ashley Foundation, a new charity to foster second-chance education. "I had no intention of being hustled into a premature resignation by an unrepresentative group of governors and masters," he wrote in Delusions of Grandeur: a Headmaster's Life, 1966-86.

Wasn't he linked with drinks?

Yes. at the Portman Group, set up to promote sensible drinking.

What is he up to now?

Retired, but writing a novel set in the First World War and awaiting the publication of his latest work, the biography of an Irish nun. He still does lots of charity work and feels "very happy and fulfilled".

Diane Spencer

* CV

1931: born in Sutton, south London, educated at Bishop Stortford College and Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where he read history.

1955: married Daphne Ray Simpson.

1955-66: assistant master, Harrow School.

1965: PhD at King's College, London.

1966-70: headmaster, Taunton School.

1970-86: headmaster, Westminster School.

1986-89: director, Laura Ashley Foundation.

1986-96: director, the Portman Group.


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