An appreciation by Penny Wild, Chair of Governors (June 2011- May 2015) and presently Trustee
Despite my many years working with Geoffrey when he was deputy headteacher and then the first male head of CSG, I was reminded by his funeral ceremony that he had many other lives apart from his distinguished professional life at school. Truly a man of many parts, he was central to the survival and modernisation of Latin teaching in the state sector, and especially in comprehensive schools, to which form of education he was deeply committed. He was engaged in his local community and loved his allotment and gardening at CSG with parents. Sometimes he worked out his frustration on the gardens and grounds at missives from government, national and local. At other times, the missives were subjected to his meticulous red pen for their spelling errors, lack of meaning and impossibilisms. He followed music and opera, public affairs, loved the Lake District, "suffered" from bibliophilia and secondhand bookshops and carefully stored away our very precious school archives, providing the basis for the formal collection we now have. His family friends were lifelong, and somehow he managed to keep friendships going from school and university scattered across the world. Many former pupils became friends.
His affable, cheerful, consensual style didn't get in the way of a very clear mind and opinions, and determination to see them through. I recall especially when we faced a grim crisis about our school identity as voluntary aided, and our comprehensive entry policy. He was very clear that we should put up a fight to retain our identity, facing serious consequences if we lost, losing an important degree of independence. Happily a court case backed the school. He was equally clear-minded and modern about admitting boys to the sixth form with a quiet confidence that it would benefit everybody.
There was no indignity about school jumble sales or any and all fundraising events, through those many years of upheavals - the destruction of the ILEA, the school asbestos crisis, imposed cuts to staffing, constant changes to exam systems and requirements to reconfigure teaching from remote policymakers. When Government decreed that schools should seek business partnerships to learn about management, Geoffrey went to Sainsbury’s in Camden Town, concluding that it was interesting, but not taxing. When the top manager from the store came to CSG he was amazed at the intensity and length of the school working day and especially the need for the Headteacher to respond throughout the day to matters trivial, middling, urgent and at crisis point. Raising money, doing his own Classics teaching, and being "the Head" were just normal parts of the school day. Strategic pressures didn't go away: we had to see that our buildings could be modernised, the curriculum extended and, above all else, that staffing at all levels could be the best.
He was on the side of pupils and people dealing with the ordinary trials and tribulations of life. I recall seeing him sitting on the stairs near his office talking to a young pupil whose mother was seriously ill, as was his wife Carolyn. Her illness resulted in his early retirement.
HIs last years saw a debilitating illness which saddened all those who knew him. His second wife Jo deserves thanks from everyone for her devoted care over the years, bringing him 'home' to Founder's Day whenever he could manage it.
As I've thought about him, I've seen how those schooling mantras, the three "Rs”, and the three "Es" - Education, Education, Education, didn't catch his spirit. His commitment and persona represented much, much more - how about Ethics, Ethos and Enthusiasm? I can see him reaching for his red pen.