Kilpatrick [née Foxley], Dame Judith Ann Gladys
- Wendy Berliner
Kilpatrick [née Foxley], Dame Judith Ann Gladys (1952–2002), headmistress, was born on 20 February 1952 at St Helens Hospital, Lancashire, the only child of James Foxley, a costing clerk in the local council's treasurer's department and later an accountant for the National Health Service, and his wife, Kathleen Alice, née Kingdon, of 21 Govett Road, St Helens, Lancashire. The family had a tradition of employment in the mines, but Judith Foxley attended the town's Cowley Grammar School for Girls and from there continued her studies at the University of Kent. Next she studied for a postgraduate certificate of education at the University of Southampton and qualified as a teacher. She spent the rest of her working life on or near the south coast of England, but remained proud of her northern England roots throughout her life, and never lost her accent.
Foxley's first job was in the city where she had trained as a teacher, at the Regent's Park Girls' School, where she worked as a teacher of English, history, and integrated studies from 1974 to 1985. She then completed one more year at the school as head of careers. After a stint as a liaison officer for schools and industry in south-east Hampshire between 1987 and 1989 she moved to Portsmouth as deputy head of King Richard School in Paulsgrove. Her first headship came four years later at the Wavell School, Farnborough. She was there for two years, during which time she married, on 22 October 1994, Andrew Kelvin Kilpatrick, a fellow headteacher (and son of Andrew Kilpatrick, a local government messenger) who was divorced and the father of two children. The marriage was dissolved after four years and they had no children of their own.
In 1995 Kilpatrick returned to Portsmouth to head City of Portsmouth Girls' School, in the inner city. She sought high standards from her students and colleagues and during her time at the school results at GCSE became the best in the immediate area, and better than those of most schools grappling with the problems of a disadvantaged neighbourhood. The school got a glowing Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education) report in 1998 which singled out her superb leadership for particular praise. She was not a zealot about single-sex education, but she did believe it was right for some.
Kilpatrick's success drew her to the attention of the incoming Labour government in 1997, elected partly on Tony Blair's mantra of 'education, education, education'. The government was keen to replicate good practice, particularly in the inner cities, and in the City of Portsmouth Girls' School it had a shining example. In 2000 the school was awarded beacon status, which meant that, as an exceptionally good school, it would share its expertise with other schools; in Portsmouth Kilpatrick was instrumental in persuading beacon schools to share teachers with schools in challenging circumstances. The same year she was appointed DBE for services to education. In 2001 City of Portsmouth Girls' School was awarded training school status. The following year it was given advanced training school status, in recognition of its expertise in recruiting and retaining staff through excellent initial teacher training and continuing professional development. The school also trained current and prospective middle managers for other schools, and non-teaching staff, such as class assistants. Active outside her school, Kilpatrick represented the National Association of Headteachers on Portsmouth education committee and was a governor at a junior school, a further education college, and Portsmouth University. In March 2002 she joined the Home Office advisory committee on the misuse of drugs, and in July of the same year she was appointed to the Teacher Training Agency.
Kilpatrick was an inspirational leader—generous, warm, quick-witted, and with a mischievous sense of humour. She was petite but had a huge capacity for hard work—as well as a passion for brightly coloured designer clothes and jewellery. She was committed to ensuring that all her girls achieved their best. She did not see coming from an inner city background as a barrier to success—it hadn't been for her. She was only the second teacher to be made a DBE, and her reaction was indicative of her style. 'I'm absolutely thrilled to bits', she said:
It reflects well on all my colleagues, and that's the important thing. You don't get these sat in your office, you get them working with colleagues … Schools are about partnerships. It's about trusting your staff. Setting the parameters against which we're going to work, but then trusting people to do that—monitoring, supporting, and generally working with colleagues not above colleagues.BBC online, 16 June 2000
She was in mid-sentence while directing a teacher training session at the school at the start of the autumn term in 2002 when she collapsed as a result of a ruptured thoracic aneurysm. She died at the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth on 5 September 2002. She had not been ill and had been in her usual good spirits at the start of the session. Her school community was deeply shocked by her sudden death and students were given cards to write their thoughts about her. Typical of the poignant epitaphs which were pinned up round the school was one which said: 'You made this school bloom, and even though you are no longer here, it will continue to bloom because of you' (The Guardian, 28 Sept 2002).
- ‘Honours success for education’, 16 June 2000, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/794244.stm, accessed 1 May 2005
- The Times (10 Sept 2002)
- The Guardian (28 Sept 2002)
- private information (2006) [J. Clayton; B. Scammell]
- b. cert.
- m. cert.
- d. cert.
- obituary photographs
- photograph, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/794244.stm, accessed 1 May 2005
Wealth at Death
£160,384: probate, 18 Feb 2003, CGPLA Eng. & Wales