Ex-teacher was a man of intellect and good humour
By Laura Vickers, Education Reporter
An academic who took a leading role in shaping the lives of Cheltenham pupils in the 1970s has died.
Bernard Wilkinson was head teacher at Cheltenham Grammar School for Boys, now Pate’s Grammar School, from 1971 to 1983. His daugher, Ann Barnett said, “He was a man of integrity, intellect and good humour.
He was a loving and supportive husband, father and grandfather who enjoyed spending time with his family and friends.
Mr Wilkinson was born in 1921 in West Yorkshire and excelled academically, gaining a scholarship to Oxford University to read history.
His studies were interrupted by the outbreak of World War II when he became a navigator with the RAF.
He returned to Oxford to finish his course before taking up his first teaching job in Tavistock, Devon.
Later, Mr Wilkinson became head teacher at Welwyn Garden City Grammar School. In 1948 he married Jean and the couple had four children, Anne, Helen, Paul and Catherine. The family moved to Cheltenham in 1971 when he was appointed headmaster at Cheltenham Grammar School for Boys, succeeding Arthur Bell who had held the position for 19 years.
Pate’s head teacher Shaun Fenton said he was
fine head master whose picture still hangs in pride of place in the Pate’s Foundation Boardroom.
Generations of staff and students from Cheltenham’s Grammar School owe him a debt. Thirty years since he retired, some teachers remain here at Pate’s and all remember him fondly. We build on his work, the work of a respected, liked and good man. Mr Wilkinson oversaw the scrapping of the time-honoured, but outdated, six house system. They were replaced by four houses — Bell, Heawood, Dobson and Frankland — named after the previous headmasters.
He also introduced forms based on houses rather than on academic streaming.
In 1972 he saw the admittance of the first girl to the boys’ school sixth form.
Two years later the school celebrated its quatercentenary. He stepped down in 1983.
In the years following his retirement he walked a number of long distance paths and once walked from Cheltenham to West Yorkshire. He was also a keen traveller who had a particular affinity with France and Italy. Mr Wilkinson was a church warden at St Mary’s in Charlton Kings between 1984 and 1987.
The Rev Michael Garland said: “Bernard has been a faithful and loyal member of the church. He was a highly respected church warden.
He and Jean made a wonderful couple and I have valued their commitment and friendship enonmously.
Mr Wilkinson’s funeral will be held at St Mary’s Church in Charlton Kings on March 7 at 12.30pm.