Today, to mark International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating some of the pioneering women who have made their own indelible marks on John Lyon School’s past and recent history.
Joan Lyon is arguably the most influential woman associated with the school. As John Lyon’s sole legatee, she inherited his vast fortune and estates when he died in 1592. Sixteen years later, when she died, she left all their wealth to be used to establish a school and for the upkeep of the road to London.
By enacting John Lyon’s will, Joan fulfilled a shared and fondly held wish that the school be set up.
Alison Dillon, who liked to be called “Sir”, was appointed by then Head Boyd Campbell as the John Lyon’s first female teacher, serving as a Mathematics teacher between the years 1967 and 1985.
Before joining the staff at John Lyon, she studied Mathematics at Cambridge and in 1942 became one of just five pupils, of which she was the only woman, to take Part III in the subject (a self-taught nine-month masters course). As a teacher she was admired by her pupils, not only for her vast subject knowledge, but also for the many excursions beyond the syllabus that she would take to create more rounded individuals and provide excellent preparation for university.
The school has named its Year 7 to 9 project the Dillon Diploma after Alison.
Pearl Fawcett taught Music part-time between 1975 and 1982. Just a year into her role, Pearl had already impressed. The 1976 issue of the Lyonian Magazine acknowledged her by saying that the school orchestra “has this year reached higher standards than ever before, mainly through the efforts of its conductor Pearl Fawcett”. That was just the start: in 1977, she was again acclaimed in the magazine for her department’s continued success, with further mentions of her work in 1979 and 1980.
“It is always good to see and hear the tremendous work she does with the younger members of the School.” – Lyonian Magazine 1980
“The Junior Orchestra, conducted by Miss Pearl Fawcett, played three straightforward pieces most competently. It is good to see that our younger musicians are already able to produce such an agreeable and well-blended sound. Miss Fawcett is to be congratulated upon her achievement here.” – Lyonian Magazine 1979
It’s plain to see that Pearl noticeably improved the school’s Music department from the moment she took up her role.
Judith Perdue taught Science for 24 years between 1981 and 2005. She played an active role at the school and was involved with DofE expeditions, accompanying Geography field trips, and making costumes for school plays, fairs and charity auctions. Particularly memorable among Judith’s many innovations was her introduction of “Domestic Survival” to the Sixth Form General Studies course, teaching pupils basic sewing and cookery to prepare them for university life. She even arranged for a kitchen to be installed for the purpose!
Judith was evidently somebody who was very happy to have a hand in and make a meaningful contribution to almost every aspect of our school’s life.
Miss Katherine Haynes read Mathematics at Warwick, followed by MEd and then taught in the Midlands, becoming head of Maths at Edgbaston High School, before moving on to Warwick School, where she started out as a school inspector and took the professional training scheme for headship. Her appointment as John Lyon’s Head made her not only the first woman ever to lead the school, but also the first female Head of any HMC boys’ day school in the UK.
Having educated boys from Harrow and surrounding areas since 1876, John Lyon School became a co-educational school in September 2021 when it welcomed its first girls into Year 7. Katherine was key to the successful transformation of a previously all-boys school into a progressive co-ed environment in which all pupils, regardless of gender, have equal opportunity to reach their potential.
“The decision to become a co-educational school has been taken positively and comes at an exciting time for John Lyon. The school is full, attracting pupils who aspire to achieve excellence. Exam results are high. We are especially buoyed, having received the best possible ‘Excellent’ outcome from our recent school inspection.
The move to co-education from September 2021 – John Lyon’s 145th anniversary year – represents the most significant change in our history. But, for our pupils, our ambitions remain unchanged: to give them a high-class education, support them in reaching their individual targets and to celebrate all their successes.”
– Miss Katherine Haynes, Head