Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Obituary - Joan Sjovoll: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Obituary - Joan Sjovoll: News

Article excerpt

An English teacher by training, Joan Sjovoll was nonetheless convinced of the importance of science education. The Durham headteacher oversaw the building of an art-filled science centre in her school and advised leading science organisations on ways the subject could be promoted nationally.

Ms Sjovoll did not tell anyone how old she was. She was, a colleague tactfully stated, "an experienced headteacher". But, several decades ago, she began her career as a secondary English teacher. Her career choice was motivated by her love of language. In later years, she would check every school letter or piece of PR material to ensure that it was well- written.

She wanted to make sure that her pupils were similarly able to express themselves confidently. And so she promoted in-school debating and oratory lessons.

But there were non-rhetorical conversations, too. She enjoyed the company of her pupils and always spoke to them as though they were her intellectual equals. She wanted to hear their opinions and valued what they had to say.

This became increasingly evident when she was appointed head of Deerness Valley Comprehensive in Durham and, in 2001, of nearby Framwellgate School. Whenever she was planning to make changes, whether to uniform, catering or the school campus, she would always ask pupils for feedback.

Education, she believed, should offer preparation for life, not simply for exams. Science and technology were growing fields in the North East, and increasingly she felt that it was vital for her and her pupils to understand the implications of research and technology. …

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