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End of an Era

End of an era

A tribute to Mr Barlin, Mrs Davies and Ms Glasson

By Mr Karlsson

It took a hurricane, to bring her closer

To the landscape.

Half the night she lay awake,

The howling ship of the wind,

Its gathering rage,

Like some dark ancestral spectre.

Fearful and reassuring.

When I think back to May 2020, I’m reminded of this poem by Grace Nichols. In her famous work, “Hurricane Hits England,” Nichols describes the sudden arrival of a tropical storm which is terrible and yet inspirational in equal measures. Hearing that three of my esteemed colleagues were stepping down from English teaching after devoting well over half a century of their combined lives to the pupils of Sutton Grammar School was devastating.

At the same time, it was understandable. The sudden arrival of a terrible pandemic has caused all of us to take stock of our lives. It’s caused all of us to re-evaluate the time that we spend with our families, friends and work, and to maybe plot new paths towards different horizons.

I’d now like to thank each of them for all they have done.

* * *

For many years, Hugh Barlin has been a Sutton Grammar linchpin (a person vital to the success of the school). And not just in English. For decades, Hugh has been involved with our school’s Staff Association (the selfless individuals who do all of the thankless but vital tasks that have a huge impact on staff morale).

Hugh loves to look after people.

He is generous with his time and money. And when he wasn’t keeping Mr Addy company, flipping slabs of red meat at the end-of-term staff barbecues, he would be thinking about a future elaborate party at his home, where he could play his raucous music and create a fun time for his many friends, and for his loving wife and sons.

Sutton Grammar has benefitted from Hugh’s generosity in lots of different ways. On a daily basis, when I have strolled past his classroom, at break or lunch, I have noticed Hugh giving up his time to help students who had asked him for extra help. He always puts the needs of others first. In recent years, despite having lots to do with English, Hugh stepped up to organise and run Global Perspectives (a subject taken by all of Year 12). With his broad general knowledge and experience of the world, Hugh was a natural choice for this. Likewise, as an expert teacher of linguistics, Hugh had previously developed A Level English Language as a new A Level on the syllabus and successfully ran this qualification during much of his time at the school. Many of his former students went on to take this subject at university, and his linguistic legacy will live on in the many inspirational resources and schemes of work that he has created.

On a personal level, Hugh has been friend and role model for me since the start of my teaching career, twenty years ago. At that time, both Mr Barlin and Mrs Davies provided expert support and guidance, which helped me through my “second teacher training placement” as a rookie teacher. Years later, when leading the English Department, I was very lucky to have Hugh as my Second in Department. His knowledge and wisdom was, and still is, very much appreciated.

Another mammoth task, which Hugh successfully took charge of, was the English Department’s annual Battlefields Tour to Ypres and The Somme. Originally organised by Tony Marsh, Hugh stepped up and continued this week long Activities Week excursion for many years. Many Old Suttonians (and staff) will now look back and see those trips as a highlight of their time at the school.

* * *

Maeve Davies is another friend and colleague who has given so much of herself to the entire Sutton Grammar School community. As well as expertly teaching English at all levels, Maeve was the school’s SENDCO for many years. Her calm counselling and assured guidance has helped countless pupils, parents and staff members to cope with all of life’s challenges.

In the classroom, Maeve was unparalleled in her behaviour management. For her, teaching has always been a vocation, a lifelong passion - not simply a job. Being sloppy or not taking pride in one’s work was rightly unacceptable. And pupils truly appreciated her firm discipline and constant demand for excellence. Many of Maeve’s students have themselves gone on to become teachers, often citing her as a pivotal influence - inspiring them at a difficult time in their lives, or encouraging them to read English at university.

It’s no wonder that her two daughters have themselves become very high achievers, now working in medicine and teaching.

But Maeve’s work, in recent decades, has not just impacted on Sutton Grammar School. Maeve has also given so much of her time to support local charities, either through her church or through her own desire to help vulnerable members of society. When asked for help, Maeve is always there with possible solutions and heartfelt advice. She goes out of her way to support palliative care and homelessness, and many families have called on her in times of great difficulty.

I wish her and her husband Mike all the best in this next stage of their lives.

* * *

Sometimes described as Mrs Davies’ blood-sister (as they share the self-same birthday), Maya Glasson has been another SGS stalwart and a good friend during her twelve years of teaching at Sutton Grammar School. From her first day, initially as a part time English teacher skilfully juggling work while raising her two children, Maya has been an outstanding member of the English team.

Maya is passionate about English Literature – especially the works of Orwell, Dickens, Chaucer and Shakespeare – often placing well chosen quotations around her whiteboard for the edification of others.

Pleasingly, Maya’s focus on raising vocabulary and teaching to the assessment objectives contributed to many excellent results for her exam classes (on one occasion producing nineteen AS Level “A” Grades from a class of twenty students). Although she enjoys pushing the brightest to achieve their best (with her own children attending top universities), Maya’s expertise with weaker students – something she nurtured during her time at Greenshaw High School, and as an EAL teacher in Japan – meant that she was very good at turning things around for underperforming boys. Often, such students would achieve an A* for GCSE English Language in spite of a much lower ‘target grade’.

Of course, like all of the school’s staff, Maya has frequently supported extra-curricular activities. She would attend many English outings and theatre trips, and she greatly enjoyed organising and competing in ‘Staff Cross Country’ (an annual fundraiser for local charities).

Just in this last year, Maya lit up the stage during the whole school end-of-term Christmas assembly. Leaping out from amongst the motley crew of staff carol singers, Maya took centre stage with an unforgettable solo rendition of “O Come All Ye Faithful”. And, at the end of her performance, the whole school were unabashed in their wild applause.

* * *

All three of these exceptional teachers will be sorely missed. I’m indebted to them for their work for the English Faculty, and wish them happiness and prosperity as they move on with their lives.

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