Long before the term “community” entered the education lexicon, my near-neighbour Patrick Eavis was pioneering a new approach to learning throughout life as the inspirational head of Queen Elizabeth community high school in Hexham, Northumberland.
Patrick, who has died aged 82, was committed to creating a school at the heart of the community. At QE, adults joined daytime classes, and many used the opportunity as a springboard to further study and to new, fulfilling directions in their lives. It had a centre for adult and family literacy and a range of youth and adult clubs, classes and activities.
When Patrick had arrived as head in 1980, QE was in the process of transforming itself into a comprehensive school by embracing a grammar school and a secondary modern. Exam results soon bettered those of the former grammar and the school attracted an ever-increasing flow of converts from private education. Its roll grew each year.
Born and raised in the village of Pilton, Somerset, Patrick’s ethos was grounded in a liberal, Christian upbringing at Worthy Farm – scene since 1970 of the Glastonbury festival, which was set up by his brother, Michael. With Patrick’s father, Joe, running the farm – his mother, Sheila (nee Carwardine), was a locum head teacher – he helped with weekend chores, sometimes milking the cows by hand.
When he passed the 11-plus he was offered a direct grant to a boarding school, but refused to take it up, and went instead to a grammar school in Wells, subsequently studying law at the London School of Economics. After training as a teacher at the Institute of Education in London, his first post was at a grammar school in Hounslow, west London, followed by spells at schools in Bedfordshire and Bristol. He moved to Newcastle upon Tyne for his first headship, at Manor Park school, where he stayed for six years before moving on to QE.
His family background, which emphasised the values of community, service and social responsibility rooted in Methodism, was a guiding light for Patrick. He was a Methodist lay preacher for 60 years and his sermons were “infused with liberal socialism and his tremendous grasp of history,” noted his niece, Lucy Pow.
In his leisure time he enjoyed choral music – he sang in a number of choirs over the years, including that of the Royal Northern Sinfonia in Gateshead. After retirement in 1997 he began relearning the violin.
Patrick is survived by his wife, Dorothy (nee New), whom he married in 1960, two daughters, Kate and Anna, three grandchildren, two brothers, Michael and Philip, and a sister, Susan.