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Jane Laing (Deputy Head 90-96 and Head 96-2001)
28 October 2023
We were very sad to hear of the unexpected death of Jane Laing at home in Saffron Walden on Thursday 5th October 2023.

This account of Jane’s teaching career has been provided by her family

“Jane Elizabeth Laing (Sykes) 28/12/1938 – 05/10/2023

Jane’s first teaching job was a part time recruitment to teach Sociology to the sixth form of St Martins School, Brentwood. 

Very soon she felt that part time teaching was taking almost as much time as full time, and her hours were accordingly extended to teach History, RE  and English in the lower school from which she gained the experience of teaching and relating to all levels all levels of academic ability.  She was chosen to be Assistant Head of the Sixth Form and later became Head of Lower School. 

With the encouragement of the then Headmaster, she applied for and was appointed joint Deputy Head of Friends’ School Saffron Walden.  On the departure of Sarah Evans to King Edwards School, Birmingham, she applied for and was appointed Head of Friends’ School. As she was approaching retirement age, she agreed that she would stay on past that date and retired at the age of 63 leaving behind a school that was financially stable, and with numbers beginning to increase.

It was a great sadness to her when the news broke that the School was to close; she had been so very happy working with the Quaker community to make a success of the School."

The following is taken from the School's Annual Report of 2001/2002 upon Jane's retirement as Head.

"Jane Laing retired in August 2001 after over 11 years association with the School, first as co-deputy head and for the last 5 years as Head.

Jane was appointed in January 1990 as one of two deputy heads. She introduced and taught GCSE Sociology and also contributed to the teaching of Religious Studies. She developed further links with the PTA and worked closely with the then Head, Sarah Evans, in developing a scheme for the training and accreditation of boarding staff, which has now become nationally recognized. Jane developed 'SOFA' a Sixth Form run community service project which provided furniture to the homeless, introduced our PSE programme, and even organized a school trip to Russia just before the breakup of the USSR.

Jane nobly took over as Head in May 1996 at an unenviable time when the Government had just decided to stop the Assisted Places Scheme, upon which the School had become financially dependent. Her commitment to the future of the School was unquestioned even when cuts had to be made to make ends meet, and the Senior Management Team reorganised. Marketing played an important part in her job and led her to far flung places such as Thailand, Japan and Hong Kong to recruit boarders.

Consultation with governors, parents, staff and pupils was how Jane worked and this was seen in particular when the School's aims were revised, when the School became a non-smoking site and when our substance abuse policy was formulated. Jane threw herself wholeheartedly into the launch of the Tercentenary Appeal and was instrumental in ensuring that the swimming pool was equipped with a new roof and for the much needed refurbishment of the science Jabs. It is impossible to list all that a Head has done. Jane took the Headship at a very difficult time and saw that it entered the 21st century in a healthy state ready to expand even further."
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