Adam Newman Turner

Adam Newman Turner

I am Frank and Lorna’s third and youngest son. Born in Blackheath - 1950, post-war London – I’ve never been sure if this allows me to claim to be a cockney. I don’t remember the sound of Bow Bells, but I never had a great memory and it seems to be getting worse…

I was too young to remember much of our daily existence on the farms where our parents developed the ideas that would shape our future lives. I was also quite unaware of the continual physical labour of converting a farm to organic methods and the intellectual and emotional energy that must have been needed to challenge the ‘scientific’ orthodoxy of the day and question the short-term profit-grabbing philosophy of the burgeoning agro-chemical industries. Dad never shied away from public controversy and seemed as comfortable on a public platform or the columns of a magazine or newspaper as he was on a tractor. His tireless educational and campaigning work seemed securely rooted in what he had learned from the generous and continual lessons of nature.

The values and wisdom that steered our early family life carried through to my formative years when we had moved to Letchworth Garden City and Dad’s career expanded to explore what nature had to teach us about human health care and well-being. The European health reform movement was crossing paths with ancient practical knowledge from further afield and, through Dad’s work, I came across Naturopathy, Acupuncture, Yoga, Homoeopathy, a few others… and an instinct to explore what our own bodies and minds could teach us. It seemed simple common sense to learn how to assume increasing responsibility for one’s own state of being – that there are consequences for our actions and choices and that continually refining our own judgement and instinct is as important as resorting to experts and authority figures to tell us how to solve life’s problems.

Something of these ideas has underpinned my own career in education – where the short-term rigidly imposed target approach, that now infects and distorts our education system, will eventually yield to the proven effectiveness of engaging with children’s unstoppable natural urges to explore the world – through open-ended and creative collaborative learning.

One reason for our move to Letchworth was so that Giles and I could attend St. Christopher School where progressive, democratic education was accompanied by a wholesome organic vegetarian diet and a strong influence of Quakerism. I will always be grateful for this sustained experience of a genuinely inclusive and caring learning community. I was at St. Christopher’s from 1958 to 1966. I came to assume that it was natural to run a school on principles of pacifism, democracy and human rights – that major decisions should be debated and voted upon by all learners and staff together and that discipline was established with unconditional respect for all. The democratic experience seemed relevant as I moved to Stevenage College for A levels where I also became the president of the students’ union. I was lucky to gain a place at Sussex University when it had a reputation for radical interdisciplinary education (and radical student politics). Studying maths and social psychology confirmed my belief that real learning doesn’t fit neatly into separate subject boxes.

Leicester University offered a progressive approach to teacher training aligned with Leicestershire’s vision for integrated community education with schools becoming community centres for life-long learning – following the philosophies of Henry Morrison and Stuart Mason. Countesthorpe Community College, my first post, had attracted some of the finest visionary educators of the time; here, ideas of student empowerment, global citizenship and negotiated learning were blossoming and the environment was rich and supportive. My subsequent career in schools serving Leicester’s diverse communities and now in the field of community cohesion and empowerment owes much to the lively debates and innovative work that were started at Countesthorpe.

I still live in Leicester – one of Europe’s most diverse and culturally interesting cities – with my wife Alison. After an early career in nursing and a sustained commitment to parenting, Alison has developed a career in primary education – following in the footsteps of both her parents, Bill and Barbara Browse. She is the Special Needs Coordinator for Elizabeth Woodville Primary School in Groby and a Year Two class teacher. Our three daughters, Tansy, Lorna and Bethony, all in or approaching their early twenties, are either at University or exploring what to do after university. We wait, with excitement, to find out in which directions they will lead the future chapters of our family.