Obituary: Tribute paid to former Ashlyns headmaster who leaves 'legacy' at the Berkhamsted school

Roger Warren was also the deputy head of Halsey School, Hemel Hempstead in the 1970s

By Reporter
Thursday, 13th January 2022, 1:09 pm

Tributes have been paid to a former headmaster of Ashlyns School in Berkhamsted who died aged 82.

Roger Warren died in November from Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) a neurological condition which, over a period of time, causes loss of movement, speech and swallowing; vision is also affected.

His wife Norma and sons Andrew and Alex would like any donations in Roger’s memory to be sent to the PSP association, a charity that provides support to people living with PSP and Corticobasal Degeneration, while funding research into treatments and ultimately a cure.

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Roger Warren

Roger Warren was appointed headmaster in January 1981 and led the school for 17 years until his retirement in July 1998. He was also the deputy head of Halsey School, Hemel Hempstead in the 1970s.

In his first ever report to the school governors he wrote: "My first weeks at Ashlyns have been a most pleasurable experience. Perhaps the main reason for this has been the manifest hard work and enthusiasm of all the staff (teaching and non-teaching) and the very high degree of goodwill which has been extended to me by all the staff.

"First impressions fully confirm the views I previously held about the school as the parent of a pupil. Ashlyns provides a caring school community with an extremely wide range of experiences which should enable the vast majority of pupils to achieve success and recognition in some aspect of school life and enable them to reach their full potential."

Leaving behind a 'strong legacy'

The 1980s was a period of budget cuts and changes in education and Ashlyns School was particularly affected by cuts because it was an Upper School only able to take 13-18 year old pupils who require specialist teaching.

The school buildings also had historic connections that needed to be respected and extensive grounds which needed maintenance.

Despite these early budget cuts Mr Warren managed in his first years to prioritise what should be done. His aims and objectives report was discussed and agreed with all the staff.

The heating in some very cold areas was improved and the boys toilets and changing facilities were refurbished.

School security was improved and Hertfordshire County Council was also persuaded to protect the Chapel's beautiful stained glass windows with mesh and to restore the electric lighting to the original Georgian posts lining the driveway.

By the 1990s the Government's National Curriculum and Ofsted Inspections were well established and in 1993 parents voted for Mr Warren's proposal that Ashlyns should apply for Grant Maintained Status.

A fun run helped to finance digital technology as an information resource in the library and a local business funded the first conversion of a classroom into a Computer Lab.

Mr Warren made and kept close contact with Rotary and many local businesses which helped considerably with work experience schemes.

Ashlyns took part and won Hertfordshire County Council's Young Project Engineers Scheme in 1994 and 1995. Memorable productions during Mr Warren's 17 years are too many to list but GCSE and later A Level Drama were added to the curriculum.

In 1994 a large classroom was made into a Drama Studio and actor and former pupil Derek Fowlds and his Ashlyns teacher Mrs Enid Watling officially opened it.

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Creating a relaxed, friendly atmosphere at Ashlyns

Mr Warren's office door was usually open.

There was a relaxed friendly atmosphere within Ashlyns and the Headmaster could be seen walking round the school corridors keeping a calm and interested eye on classes.

Occasionally he would take a lesson himself. His gift for teaching was self-evident for those of us whose children happened to see him in action and told us about it.

Biology was his specialist subject but it seems he could take a class on anything!

Mr Warren's judicious use of school funds also helped alleviate the detrimental effects of poverty for some pupils.

Discrete discounts would be given to those who would benefit from a school trip but whose families could not afford the extra cost.

Sometimes a member of staff was asked to accompany a pupil to the shops in order to purchase new trousers or shoes.

Making it easier for all to be included is probably why he established a very simple uniform policy - black shoes not trainers, black trousers/skirt, black jumper and white shirt.

A major contract completed shortly before Mr Warren's retirement was to oversee extensive renewal of electrical systems in the school, notably including eco-friendly automated lighting in corridors and classrooms and elegant chandeliers in the Chapel.

Roger Warren retired in 1998 leaving Ashlyns a strong legacy.

He will be remembered with respect and affection by parents and pupils and all those he knew and worked with in school.