John Foggin obituary

Other lives: Inspirational English teacher at Boston Spa school

My friend and former colleague John Foggin, who has died aged 80, was head of English at Boston Spa school near Leeds before becoming a local education authority adviser on English and then moving on to train teachers of English and literacy. In retirement he forged a new identity as a writer of powerful and evocative poetry.

Born in Batley, West Yorkshire, to George, a woollen spinner, and Marjorie (nee Terry), a mill worker, John attended Batley grammar school before graduating in English from Durham University in 1964.

An inspirational English teacher who had a striking impact on pupils and colleagues alike, he began his career at Middlesbrough boys’ high school before moving to Northern Counties College in Newcastle upon Tyne.

He went on to be head of English at Boston Spa, where he and I met, from 1975 to 1985 before becoming English and drama adviser at Calderdale local education authority in West Yorkshire. One of his first tasks there was to devise the English paper for the authority’s 11-plus exam, an irksome responsibility for an advocate of comprehensive education.

In 1993 he switched to teacher training at Bretton Hall College of Education (now part of Leeds University), where he successfully persuaded a generation of trainee teachers that there was more to teaching English than SATs and the national literacy strategy.

Retirement in 2008 allowed him to give more attention to Batley’s rugby league team, which he had supported since childhood, and to make more frequent visits to the Isle of Skye, which he loved. He often said that if the island had possessed a rugby league team, then he would have moved there for good.

With more time on his hands John also focused on writing his poetry, which won a number of national prizes and was published in two collections, Advice to a Traveller (2018) and Pressed for Time (2022).

In 1992 he suffered a personal tragedy when his son, David, took his own life, aged 21 – a circumstance on which he reflected movingly on his website, The Great Fogginzo’s Cobweb, which he set up in 2014.

John is survived by his wife, Joan (nee Rogers), whom he married in 2022 after more than 35 years together, three children, Julie, Michael and Andrew, from his first marriage to Nina (nee Large), which ended in divorce, a son, Morgan, from Joan’s previous marriage, and 10 grandchildren.

Howard Falshaw

The GuardianTramp

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