Obituary - Hugh Woodcock (1925-2011)

Hugh Woodcock arrived as headmaster of Dulwich College Preparatory School in 1962 after previously being head of Portsmouth Grammar Junior School for eight years.  He was to spend the next twenty nine years as head at DCPS, an extraordinary long tenure in the demanding world of education.  During his headship the school expanded both in the numbers on the role and in its buildings, which were made up of a collection of large Victorian houses in urgent need of repair and modernisation.  Curriculum changes including drama, craft, design and technology, computing, and separate science lessons were all introduced and art and music were taught to all boys right through the school.

One of his first innovations on arriving at DCPS was to launch the nursery school in Gallery Road behind Brightlands, the school’s boarding house which it had acquired.  This was considered very avant-garde at the time and has proved to be a valuable conduit to the main school in Alleyn Park.  His last big building project was the provision of the magnificent music school.  This policy caused some disquiet among the academic staff who wanted classrooms, but Woodcock’s prescience has led to the school having an outstanding reputation for music to this day. The music school was subsequently named after him. Despite being a headmaster for a total of thirty eight years, Woodcock still liked to teach and he remained an inspiration in the classroom, particularly to boys who found Latin difficult.

Once he was satisfied with the way DCPS was working, Woodcock became active in the wider Prep School and educational worlds. He served on the Incorporated Association of Preparatory Schools (IAPS) committees virtually continuously from 1970 until he retired. His greatest accolade from his fellow Heads was to be elected Chairman of IAPS twice. This is an extremely rare feat and says much about the respect in which he was held by his peers.

After retiring from Dulwich he was asked to go back to the Dragon School, Oxford, where he had once been a pupil, as Headmaster during the interregnum between two headmasters. He was a governor of Harrow, St Edward’s and the Dragon among others.