David Hopkinson (1951-2023, member of staff 1974 – 2023)
Today staff, pupils and students lined West Park Road to say their final goodbye to Mr David Hopkinson.
Dave came to Queen Elizabeth’s in September 1974 with a History and Politics degree from the University of Wales. He also brought with him a burning passion for football and was in action on the first Saturday of that Michaelmas Term, managing the U12A team. The number of young footballers Dave has inspired and encouraged since that day is incalculable, and many of his past players regard their football with Dave as the highlight of their broad education at school. Typically modest about his own footballing skills, Dave was himself a mean centre-back in his younger years, representing his University and going on to play for the Old Blackburnians. Playing with strong peripheral vision, he no doubt organised the defence. At the time, he surely did not realise that he would be seeing the “bigger picture” with regard to the school’s strategic development and organising skilfully many whole school events as a Deputy Headmaster and Clerk to the Trustees.
Of course, Dave’s primary responsibility in school was as a teacher, working in numerous departments. In History he taught with much success throughout the school and proved to be a wonderful communicator with pupils and students of all ages. His engaging teaching style belied a quick, incisive mind, and he was popular and respected by all. His own academic interests in 20th Century Russian and British History and especially the political developments of this period were soon to impact on the Sixth Form curriculum and to result in many mind-broadening visits abroad for students. Never one to be content with the status quo, it was Dave who introduced A level Politics to the Sixth Form. Dave’s adaptability and his willingness to take on new challenges and the teaching of other subjects made him a particularly valued colleague. Dave went on to teach Geography, English, Classics and Latin as well as General Studies, Life Skills and Cookery.
Generous to a fault, Dave was always willing to give of his time to assist his colleagues in running activities, visits and charity events. To those who knew Dave as a wise and respectable member of the Senior Management Team and Clerk to the Trustees, it may come as a surprise to learn that a younger Dave would go to great lengths to raise funds for the school Community Service scheme. At sell-out Christmas concerts he impersonated not just a punk rocker in The Sex Pistols, but also appeared as one of The Three Degrees. Fortunately, he performed to backing tracks and his singing was not broadcast to the audience.
Dave has the distinction of being the first Head of Year at Queen Elizabeth’s. In the 1980s and early 1990s, his office was in the Hartley House Annexe, then a rather basic Sixth Form centre overseen by Dave, before being appointed Head of Sixth Form in 1995. He applied strongly held principles to foster the behaviour and aspirations of Sixth Formers. At that time Dave also had the unenviable task of moulding a diverse team of twenty-three Form Tutors into a cohesive team. Dave was always looking to improve the Sixth Form provision at Queen Elizabeth’s and to enable students to give of their best in all aspects of school life. He was a crucial member of staff in developing and implementing major changes in curriculum and pastoral care across the whole school in the late 1990s. On the Curriculum Committee, he saw the “bigger picture” concerning balance and breadth and would never press his own subject’s claims ahead of others. The turn of the millennium saw Dave become Director of Sixth Form, managing the Sixth Form with two Year Heads, and thereafter promotion to Deputy Headmaster (Pastoral), an appointment confirmed in 2007. Dave’s even-tempered nature and his ability to present a coherent argument made him a valued colleague at Senior Management and Governors’ Meetings and he was an early champion of the move to Free School status in 2014, something he and other colleagues then worked hard to implement successfully.
One of Dave’s major contributions to the life of the school was his provision of visits for pupils, students and staff. As one who values the best ideals of a liberal and broad education, he believed strongly in the ability of visits to inspire, encourage and educate young people. He himself travelled widely. He pioneered trips to Russia in the 1970s and 1980s, a time when such visits were not easy to arrange, and he went on to organise or be part of visits all over Europe, often collaborating with colleagues in the History, Mathematics, Modern Languages and Classics departments. One of his many exploits involved travelling by rail to Moscow in a sleeper carriage, not knowing to which hotel the then Soviet authorities would direct his party of Sixth Formers. In addition, for over twenty years Dave managed the annual national Independent Schools Football Association (ISFA) U-18s XI tour to major European cities, playing against youth squads of top teams such as Barcelona.
Dave was one of those colleagues who fostered a strong sense of community amongst the teaching staff. He would stop anything he was doing to chat with colleagues who were upset or needed advice in their professional and personal lives. It was therefore no surprise that Dave became Deputy Headmaster (Pastoral) and fulfilled that role with distinction through to the close of his teaching career at Queen Elizabeth’s. He worked tirelessly with his Heads of Year, developing an impressive and mutually supportive team, and later on also had pastoral oversight of the Primary School. Many will remember Dave in Early Years surrounded by very small children, with several locked around his legs, all shouting “please Mister Hopkinson!” as Dave attempted to respond to their requests for extra play time.
One of Dave’s finest qualities was that of fairness. Scrupulously even-handed in his dealings with pupils, students, parents, carers and colleagues, Dave never spoke badly of anyone, instead focusing always on the individual’s positive attributes. In interviews with parents/carers and misbehaving pupils/students, Dave would present the pupil’s/student’s good track record first but would not shrink from presenting the realities of the particular case and making difficult decisions. Such interviews would usually end with Dave asking the pupil/student “Have I been fair?” Throughout, he worked with true regard for the best interests of the pupils and students. When dealing with issues between staff, Dave might be challenged with a complaint from a colleague about another colleague’s behaviour or questionable decision. Dave’s response was invariably “To be fair….” followed by a sympathetic interpretation of what the other colleague was trying to achieve.
Meanwhile, on the football field, Dave made his presence felt as a truly gifted coach and manager of the 1st XI with the ability to get the best out of players. In these endeavours, he would not work alone and loved being part of a team of colleagues with complementary expertise. The success of football and Dave’s part in this success cannot be overestimated. Not only did the 1st XI win numerous Lancashire County and National Public Schools Sixes trophies, but Queen Elizabeth’s was the first (and still the only) school to win the national ISFA Cup competition three times, in 1996, 2001 and 2004. Winning in extra time against Millfield in the 2004 final was a particularly proud moment for Dave and all those involved. In recognition of this huge achievement the Chairman of ISFA presented school with the trophy in perpetuity.
Dave’s ability to work sympathetically with colleagues resulted in some extremely effective partnerships. He filled professional roles in nearly all aspects of school life, as Teacher, Form Tutor, 1st team Coach, Head of Department, Head of Year, Director of Sixth Form and Deputy Head (Pastoral).
Even in retirement in 2015, his link to Queen Elizabeth’s continued as he was appointed to yet another role, that of Clerk to the Trustees in 2015, a role for which his encyclopaedic knowledge and understanding of Queen Elizabeth’s made him extremely well suited. Through this role he carefully guided the Trustees through the early years of being a Free School, including countless DfE documents and initiatives. He was present for the Ofsted inspections in 2017 and 2019, and his support was gratefully received by leaders. He was always totally organised and efficient in everything that he did. He gave of his time generously and he was always at the end of the telephone ready with words of wisdom should they be needed. He continued to be a regular spectator at Lammack on Saturday mornings and he still enjoyed hearing about all the fantastic activities and achievements that were taking place throughout the school.
Dave was also the Clerk to the Old Co Association and Chair of the Trustees of Queen Elizabeth’s Nursery School. It is correct to say that Queen Elizabeth’s in its widest sense kept him extremely busy during retirement.
It is no exaggeration to describe Dave as a giant in the recent history of Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School. His impact on generations of pupils, students and colleagues has been overwhelmingly positive and life-affirming over his magnificent forty-eight and a half years of service, and many are much in his debt. The school community past and present will miss him greatly. They will always be grateful for his contributions and impact on their lives.
Rest in peace Mr David, Hoppy, Hopkinson
Mrs CY Gammon
Mr J Cave