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John Searle-Barnes (Staff)
13 June 2023
John Searle-Barnes (Staff 1984-2016) died peacefully at home on 11th June 2023. John taught at Friends' School for 32 years from 1984 to 2016.

A Memorial Meeting is planned for 2pm on Saturday 9th September at the Friends’ Meeting House in Saffron Walden CB10 1AA. This will be an opportunity to get to know a bit more about John’s life at the Meeting House where John was a regular attender. There is to be a plaque with John’s name on the memorial wall in the Garden of Peace situated behind the Meeting House. Refreshments will be served afterwards and all are welcome to attend.

John was born in Kent on 7th November 1950. His father had a long career as a headmaster, and his mother was a librarian. He and his sister were initially brought up in Barnstable but then moved to Rutland, where John’s father took another position as headmaster in Uppingham, while John attended, first Oakham School, and then Stamford Grammar School.

John obtained his B.A. in History at Westfield College, University of London where he is remembered by his friends there as a witty, most knowledgeable and clever student. He then studied for his PGCE at the Institute of Education, University of London, before going on to the Lancaster University where he had a three year contract as Administrative Officer for the Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religious Studies. In 1977 John also obtained his Modern Social History at Lancaster.

John then took up a position as teacher of History and Politics at Bootham School, a Quaker school in York. At Bootham John found that children could be educated in a non-elitist way in an independent school, and he very much enjoyed the loving and understanding ethos of the school. It was at York that John met his wife Gisèle who was a French language assistant at the Mount School, the other Quaker school in York.

In 1984 he began his 32 year career at Friends’ School, Saffron Walden, teaching History, Film Studies and General Studies. He also took on the responsibilities of Head of Sixth Form and Examinations Officer and was part of the senior management team. John always had time for others and especially those under his care. He enjoyed his teaching and was also very much loved and respected by those who worked with him, and whose rights he championed as a union representative. In the words of a former colleague:

“He was a most remarkable man. He inspired a generation of Friends’ students with his excellent teaching and his wise counsel. His assemblies reflected his character, his knowledge, his wit and his belief in Quaker principles. So many students will remember him with the greatest affection, and owe their love of history to him.”

John organised many school trips, but it was after accompanying his students on the Foxtrot, the annual Quaker pilgrimage following the progress of George Fox from Pendle Hill in Lancashire to Swarthmoor Hall in the Lake District, that he began attending Saffron Walden Quaker Meeting. He was very receptive to ideas that came to him in the silence of Meeting for Worship and through spoken ministry, and went on to become a valued member of the Meeting, including serving as an Elder and Assistant Clerk.

John’s favourite sentence from Quaker ‘Advices and Queries’ was ‘Think it possible that you may be mistaken.’ (no.17)

There have been many shared fond memories of John. In particular he will be remembered by his sixth formers and for his passion for history and film, and by those who went on the many trips he organised - his sixth form team building trips, the end of year sixth form trips, Quaker Pilgrimages, and the many WWI battlefields trips. His Quaker values were an integral part of his concern for the individuals under his care and he will not be forgotten by the many people whose lasting love and affection he earned.
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