Moyra Bond: Author whose education books sold in their millions
Thursday 14 April 2011
Moyra Bond (possibly better known as J M Bond) was the best-selling author of the Bond Assessment Papers. First published in 1964 as Assessment Papers in Mathematics (and English and Verbal Reasoning), they remain in print and have sold over two million copies. Yet their author remained a little-known figure. An article in The Times on 1 January 2001 said: "And what about J M Bond? You've heard of him, of course. No? Well, J M Bond is a bestselling author if ever there was one; 36 titles in print turning over in a good year up to a million in bookshop sales."
Right from the start, her name was shown as the gender-less "J M Bond" so as not to deter possible buyers who might not want an educational book written by a woman. For the same reason, she was also described as "principal" rather than "headmistress". It was only in 2007 that she was "outed" on the internet as being female.
Jean Moyra Bell, born in 1915, was not obviously academic in her younger days. In her teens and in her twenties, her principal distinction was as a swimmer, in which she represented her county, Norfolk. She did not go to college but started her career working in Barclays bank in Aylsham near Norwich, where she met her husband-to-be. After the failure of her marriage, she moved to Swanage with her two sons and, now in her late thirties, decided to become a teacher. She enrolled on a teacher-training course at Weymouth College and taught mathematics in a variety of schools in the Dorset area. In 1958, she borrowed the money to buy Avalon, a girls' preparatory school in West Kirby in the Wirral. The school was already highly regarded but, in 23 years as its head, she enlarged and developed the school and raised academic standards, winning loyalty and affection from generations of pupils and their parents as well as from staff.
It was while she was fully occupied with running the school that she first had the idea for the Assessment Papers. In those days Cheshire – perversely – operated not only the 11-plus but an additional 10-plus exam. But there were no books of sample 10-plus questions. So she made up her own questions, writing them out on small slips of paper and reading them out to her classes.
This developed into a series of test papers which she sent to Nelson's, the publishers. Nelson's (now Nelson Thorne) not only decided to publish her work, but asked her to develop a full range of books to include English and reasoning as well as mathematics, and for pupils at four different levels, from ages eight to 11.
She revised her books regularly to keep them relevant to successive generations of students – the introduction of decimal currency and metrication are just two of the more obvious changes she had to make. More recently, the books have been thoroughly updated (some by other writers) to conform with today's National Curriculum. The books have sold throughout the world and letters of appreciation have been received from as far afield as Australia, Canada, Indonesia and South Africa.
After her retirement, Bond lived for several years in Heswall in the Wirral. One of her main interests was photography – which she also studied at a local college and achieved qualifications in, again while coping with the demands of headship – and she became an enthusiastic member of the Heswall Photographic Society.
Ten years ago her declining health led her to move to Surrey to be nearer her family.
Jean Moyra Bell, teacher and writer: born Norfolk 21 July 1915; married 1938 Raymond Bond (died 1956; two sons); died Weybridge, Surrey 9 February 2011.
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