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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Justin Hennessey

Roger Hennessey obituary

Roger Hennessey in 2014.
Roger Hennessey in 2014. He established the economics department at the Royal Grammar school, Newcastle upon Tyne. Photograph: Livia Hunt

My father, Roger Hennessey, who has died aged 84, was an inspirational teacher at the Royal Grammar school, Newcastle upon Tyne, from 1962 to 1973, and an effective head of the school’s economics department. After the RGS, Roger was an HMI – a schools inspector – from 1973 until his retirement in 1992, latterly becoming the staff inspector of history.

Roger was born in Hammersmith, west London. He was the son of a Royal Navy officer, Sydney, who commanded HMS Scott on D-day. An only child, Roger grew up with his mother, Winifred (nee Palmer), when his father was away at sea. He eagerly anticipated his father’s shore leave, which invariably began with an understated message from a phone box asking for “the kettle to be put on”.

After education at Epsom college, Surrey, and national service with the Army Catering Corps, Roger read history at Downing College, Cambridge, specialising in the British economy from 1870 to 1940. He graduated in 1960, completed a postgraduate certificate in education in 1961, and joined the RGS the following year. The headteacher, Mr Hayden, wanted to broaden the curriculum and tasked Roger with establishing an economics department.

He also edited the school’s Old Novocastrians’ Association magazine and wrote a number of secondary school textbooks for the Batsford Past-into-Present Series, including Transport (1966), Factories (1969) and Railways (1973).

In 1963 Roger married Penelope Coningham, my mother. Although my parents divorced in 1991, they maintained an affection for each other and a shared interest in their three children and four grandchildren.

His time as staff inspector of history coincided with the first national curriculum for history being devised. The chairman of the History Working Group, Michael Saunders Watson, wrote in the foreword to the final report: “I wish to single out the quite outstanding support we have received from our observer representative of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate, Mr Roger Hennessey.”

Around this time Roger met Jennifer Worsfold, who was in charge of the History Working Group’s secretariat, and they married in 1995.

Tempted by generous terms offered when Ofsted was established, Roger retired from the inspectorate in 1992. In retirement he published more books, including Worlds Without End (1999) and Atlantic: The Well-Beloved Engine (2002).

Jennifer was diagnosed with dementia in the early 2000s and died in 2016. Roger is survived by his children, Emma, Jasper and me, and grandchildren.

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