Aelfthryth Gittings 1939-2012
William Tyndale
SCPR 1978-2000


Aelfthryth was very actively involved in the William Tyndale,affair (1973-75), as both a parent and an manager at the William Tyndale Junior and Infants School in Islington where our three children were attending. The affair arose when a number of teachers in the Junior School (which was separate from the Infants School) sought to practice radical and “progressive” methods of teaching, but in a way which led to acute loss of confidence by many local parents and a falling roll in children admissions, and which became a national news item. While Aelfthryth and John supported a progressive approach to  education, they shared the widespread view among parents that this particular experiment was conducted in a doctrinaire way and had led to very poor teaching and to chaos in the classroom. The affair gained national publicity and became entangled in a more general debate on education. This is an extract from the official report into the William Tyndale affair, following a public enquiry conducted by Robin Auld QC for the Inner London Education Authority, and published in July 1976,  pp. 46-47, 228-29.



Mrs Aelfthryth Gittings

149. Mrs Aelfthryth Gittings had no previous experience as a manager. She had three children, all of whom had attended one or other of the William Tyndale Schools. In the Autumn term of 1973 her eldest son was at the Junior School and her second son in the Infants School. At the time of the Inquiry her youngest son had started in the Infants School. Mrs Gittings holds the Degrees of Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts and also has a Diploma in Social Science. She had been a member of the Labour Party, but was not a member at the time of the Inquiry. Mrs Gittings took an intense interest in the affairs of the School throughout the period covered by this Report and a very active part in the events giving rise to this Inquiry.


Tbe refusal by the Junior School to receive visits from Managers during school hours

Mrs Gittings's visit to the Junior School on 20 June 1975

716. Mrs Gittings visited the Junior School by appointment on 20 June 1975. She was received courteously by Mr Ellis [the head teacher] and, after about half an hou with him, she asked if she could see round the classrooms. Mr EIlis then indicated that the Staff had asked to meet her before she went into the classrooms. She agreed to meet them, and did so in the Staff room at playtime. It turned au unpleasant meeting for Mrs Gittings, The Staff, Mr Haddow in particular, used it as an opportunity to interrogate her about the petition [whichwhich expressed concern at the “deteriorating quality of education” in the Junior School], the general attitudes of some of the Managers and even about Mrs Walker's [a teacher who disagreed with the educational philosophy of Mr Haddow and fellow-teachers] conduct in the previous Summer.

717. Mr Haddow started by informing Mrs Gittings that they had resolved at a Staff meeting not to let Managers into their classrooms until they had answered some questions. She was then asked about the petition and whether Mr Pedrick was responsible for it. She told them that to the best of her knowledge it had come from him and that she had heard of the petition before the Managers' Meeting on 10 May 1975 and that she had seen it afterwards. She also told them that the General Management Committee of the local constituency Labour Party had discussed the School. In response to questions by Mr Haddow, she also acknowlcdged she had seen a draft of the paper that Mrs Walker had circulated at the parents/teachers meeting on 9 July 1974, and that the draft that she had seen was not entirely in the same form as the document that was eventually circulated. Mrs Gittings then made plain to the Staff that the Managers were tired of discussion with no result, and that they felt that the time had now come to act. She indicated her own concern for the standards of education at the School.

718. Mrs Gittings's answers to the questions put to her did not appear to satisfy Mr Haddow, and the attitude that he and some of the Staff adopted towards towards her was extremely hostile. At the end of the questioning she asked if she could then go round the classrooms. Mrs Chowles said that she would welcome her in her classroom and Mr Austin indicated that he had no objection. Mr Haddow said, however, that they must first have another Staff meeting to discuss the answers that Mrs Gittings had given. In the event, Mrs Gittings visited Mrs Chowles's classroom on that day and agreed to return on 23 June 1975 to see if the rest of the Staff would allow her to visit the other classrooms. Mrs Gittings left this meeting feeling that the Resolution of the Managers [expressing concern at the loss of public confidence in the School] at their 19 May 1975 meeting was being ignored by the Jnnlor School Staff. That feeling, coupled with the treatment that she had received from them on this occasion, caused her to decide to collect signatures for the petition.