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Mr Harry Fitton

June 2nd 1926 – April 11th 2007

Harry Fitton was Wetherby High School’s first Headteacher, having been appointed Head of the former Wetherby County Secondary School when it was sited on Crossley Street. He had the unenviable task of combining two schools (Wetherby County Secondary and Boston Spa County Secondary) when the new campus was opened in September 1966. The fact that it became a happy, thriving community is a tribute to the way in which he accomplished this.

The following year the ‘new’ school became Comprehensive and had to cope with hostility from some parents and a rapidly rising school roll as the area saw huge population growth as housing development in the Knaresborough-Wetherby-Garforth crescent mushroomed. The School became overcrowded almost as soon as it opened and a succession of building projects followed.

This was a time of rapid change in Secondary Education as the comprehensive ideal became established. New subjects, new examinations, the raising of the School Leaving Age Local Government re-organisation and the growth of post 16 education were all overseen by Harry, who’s humour and humanity enabled us to cope with it all. Pretty soon WHS had become one of the top-achieving schools nationally as the succession of international visitors who came to observe the place at work would testify.

But most of all, the Fitton era produced a happy school for staff and students alike. To the staff, he was “Big H” a respected leader and cherished colleague: to the students he was more than just a Head. I swear he could remember the names of every pupil, past and present, who attended WHS in those years. His kindness, thoughtfulness and concern for all inspired real loyalty but his grasp of the essentials of headship was always sure. He could write wonderfully – the speed at which he could compose a letter was amazing – and he often threatened to write his memoirs “one day”. I wish he had.

When he retired in 1984 after some 20 years at the helm, it truly was the end of an era. I am certain that everyone who was a part of those years remembers them with fondness – you have only to read this website to appreciate that!

Harry died, aged 81, on April 11th 2007 after a long battle against leukaemia. The Service of Thanksgiving at the Methodist Church in Boston Spa which followed the private funeral on 19th April was packed with former colleagues and pupils, a host of friends and a devoted family. He touched so many lives and will be greatly missed by all who knew him.

- Malcolm Winterburn, May 2007

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