John Alton (Chemistry, 1969)
John is a retired Headteacher.
I was very aware of Neil Tanner and his effect on the intake of Hertford at that time. All my chemist colleagues at Hertford and certainly most of the physicists of 1969 were, like me, from state school backgrounds.
I have always been extremely grateful for the opportunities which Hertford provided and I am sure I would not have gained what I did if I had gone to a different university – it was a great privilege to be at Oxford, especially in the days of free local authority grants, which contributed, like the Hertford Scheme, to the opening up of opportunities for many state school students. I chose to take up a career in education and spent many years as a head teacher in primary schools. I think the way Oxford opened my mind to such a rich and diverse set of experiences contributed hugely to my own approach and philosophy in education (and in life) and I hope I passed some of these attitudes on to the teachers and hundreds of young people I worked with.
I now work with young people from state schools on the verge of going to university and find it interesting how even the more academically talented don’t bother to apply to Oxbridge because they think they will either not fit in or not be able to manage the work. The university has such a high-status image that those without the self-confidence engendered by their school or family shy away. Unfortunately Oxford retains the reputation of recruiting a high percentage of public school students, and those from state school or unsupported backgrounds can find this off-putting. Hertford’s continuing endeavours to promote open access to Oxford is vital to bringing more of these students to experience the benefits it can offer….and thanks to the vision of Neil Tanner for starting off this ongoing change.