Obituary: Dame Beryl Paston Brown

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The Independent Online
Beryl Paston Brown made a distinguished contribution to the field of teacher education and was herself no mean scholar.

As Principal of Homerton College, Cambridge, from 1961 to 1971 she transformed the academic climate of the college, establishing a regime where delegation, consultation and collegiate responsibility for policy were developed alongside a more liberal social and academic life for students. There also, with little or no encouragement from Cambridge University, she established a degree course for teachers, at first validated by London University.

A proposal for the establishment of the BEd to the Council of the Senate of Cambridge University was first turned down in 1966, for fear of lowering standards. But then, through the good offices of Newnham College, where students spent their fourth year, Paston Brown secured for them a Cambridge degree, the first graduates emerging in the early Seventies.

Beryl Paston Brown was born in London in 1909. Her father claimed descent from the Pastons of the 15th-century Paston Letters and her mother was a member of the Henson family, to which belonged Herbert Hensley Henson (1863-1947), the controversial bishop of Durham.

Paston Brown was educated at Streatham Hill High School and Newnham College, Cambridge, where she was awarded Firsts in both parts of the English Tripos. She trained as a teacher in London but in the Depression of the early Thirties found it difficult to secure a teaching post in a school. She was, however, persuaded by Dorothy Dymond, the distinguished new principal of the teachers' college at Portsmouth, to give some academic stiffening to what Dymond considered to be a meagre and inadequate curriculum for trainee teachers.

At Portsmouth, between 1933 and 1937, Paston Brown combined her teaching of students with teaching in schools and found both experiences satisfying and stimulating. In 1937 she joined the staff of Goldsmiths' College in London and stayed there until 1951, with a two-year stint (1944-46) as a tutor at Newnham, after the death of her much- loved younger brother Peter on active service with the RAF.

In 1952 she became only the second Principal of the City of Leicester Training College and in 1961 moved on, at Dorothy Dymond's persuading, to the Principalship of Homerton College, Cambridge, where she remained until her retirement.

Beryl Paston Brown was a lively member of the Executive Committee of the Association of Teachers in Colleges and Departments of Education, its Chairman in 1965-66 and an early editor of its journal, Education for Teaching. She was a member of the Newsom committee that produced the report on secondary education Half Our Future in 1963, and was appointed DBE in 1968 - so far the only teacher-trainer to be so honoured.

Until her last illness she greatly enjoyed her retirement in Lewes, East Sussex, where she became an Open University tutor and was awarded an Open University honorary degree.

Joyce Skinner

Beryl Paston Brown, educat- ionist: born London 7 March 1909; Lecturer, Portsmouth Training College 1933-37; Lecturer, Goldsmiths' College, London 1937-44, 1946-51; Temporary Assistant Lecturer, Newnham College, Cambridge 1944-46; Principal, City of Leicester Training College 1952-61; Principal, Homerton College, Cambridge 1961-71; Chairman, Association of Teachers in Colleges and Departments of Education 1965-66; DBE 1967; died Lewes, East Sussex 25 July 1997.