Attention: You are using an outdated browser, device or you do not have the latest version of JavaScript downloaded and so this website may not work as expected. Please download the latest software or switch device to avoid further issues.

News > School News > John Birchall retires after 45 years dedicated service

John Birchall retires after 45 years dedicated service

Continued global educational adventures await in retirement.
28 Jun 2022
Written by Jennifer Law
School News

The fast approaching end of term will bring with it the hugely significant end of an era as our current longest serving Member of Staff, John Birchall, Head of Business & Economics, retires after an astonishing 45 years dedicated service to the College.

John has taught generations of Old Stortfordians during his tenure, often teaching both parents and children and he will be missed by all those that have had the great privilege to be inspired by him either as a teacher or colleague.

John’s journey to the College followed a period of VSO work after the completion of his first Degree. A period that was to change John’s life in unexpected ways. John was one of three volunteers from his VSO cohort to travel to Freetown, Sierra Leone, one of the others being his future wife. John worked at the Ports Authority and with the UN and developed a lifelong affection for the Country. Having become a couple in 1973 they returned to London together and John completed a Masters Degree at SOAS.

John’s first job in education came as an educational officer at a boys borstal, followed by a most rewarding time as a Teacher at Trinity School, Croydon where he supported a huge Oxbridge cohort. Luckily for the College, John’s accommodation at Trinity School was too noisy for is young family so he started looking for his next teaching post. He saw an advert for a job at the College in 1977, met with Headmaster Colin Greetham for an informal conversation about the role and the rest is history.

John was due to leave the College twice but the jobs didn’t come to fruition and he has now achieved an amazing 45 years service. Modest and humble of his achievements and experiences at the College John explained how he balanced the rigours of College teaching with family life, a family life based around his musician Wife’s teaching at the Guildhall School of Music and his talented musician sons attendance there as well before they moved on to the Yehudi Menuhin School. John’s deep passion for business, economics and African studies is only eclipsed by his passion for his family which remains at the heart of all he does.

John’s achievements and impact at the College are impossible to list in their entirety as they run through the very veins of the School. His personal highlights have been the leading of trips to EU, with whom he worked between 1996 and 2016 and the organisation of the renowned Ferguson Lecture series of which he has arranged and hosted 3 or 4 lectures a year since 2007 with a pinnacle of 6 during the College’s 150th Anniversary celebratory year. The Ferguson Lecture series was launched to encourage healthy debate and discussion on topical issues of the day and after commencing with a lecture by Tony Benn and further distinguished speakers have included Dr Rowan Williams, Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge and Editor of the News Statesman, Jason Cowley. Sadly covid meant they came to a close at the end of 2019 but their reputation lives on.

John’s most memorable Ferguson Lecture ‘starred’ notorious MP (at the time) George Galloway, having kept the audience waiting in order to make a big entrance he spoke eloquently on the subject of the politics of the Middle East but the lecture came to an abrupt and unpleasant end when he defamed the intellect of a pupil asking a question and the audience turned against him. Mr Galloway’s exit was swift and sharp as the audience gave full backing and support to the very bright pupil involved.

Outside his College classroom John has fostered a career as a Chief Examiner which facilitated the opportunity to deliver conferences at the Methodist Central Hall as well as his work in Africa with the hosting of the ‘Shaping our Future Conferences’ in collaboration with the British Council until it closed down. The hosting of vital educational conferences in Africa is John’s next adventure as he retires from teaching, alongside that of teaching Business and Economics foundation students from challenging backgrounds at ARU in Peterborough. Reflecting on his own roots, John is keen to enhance University opportunities for students from more underprivileged backgrounds.

As he prepares to leave the College for the last time as a teacher, John feels privileged to have taught at the College for so long, teaching generations of pupils, alongside exceptional colleagues whom he will miss greatly. A job within which he notes he has never had to raise his voice to get his message across and which permitted him to remain close to his family and travel & learn overseas.

All at the College and within the Old Stortfordian community thank John for his dedicated service and inspirational teaching during his 45 year College career and wish him every happiness in his next adventures in life. His legacy will live on in those whom have had the honour to converse and learn from him.

In lieu of retirement gifts, John has humbly nominated to receive financial support to facilitate his organisation of a 3rd Shaping our Future Conference in Lusaka, Zambia (previously organised by The British Council) John will be aiming to educate young agrarians, especially females and focusing on growing food crops in sustainable ways. It is hoped that the Conference will meet for three days at University of Zambia in March/April 2023. Contributions of any size would be hugely appreciated by John as he seeks to continue his vital work in Africa.

To support John's upcomng activities please click the Justgiving link below:

If you would like to pass on your best wishes please sign this ecard before Midday on Friday 1st July:


Similar stories

Exhilarating opportunity to live and work at The College during summer 2024 More...

We say a fond farewell, to an inspirational Teacher of Physical Education and Head of Rounders, Kay Adkins, who retires from Bishop's Stortford Colleg… More...

Most read

Share a story with us


Bishop's Stortford College,
School House,Maze Green Rd,
Bishop's Stortford,CM23 2PQ

Contact us

The Stortfordian Foundation
+44 (0) 1279 838 575



This website is powered by