A FORMER headteacher credited with turning around one of the region’s most successful schools has died at the age of 97.

Benjamin Bagley, who was better known as Wallace, was the headteacher of Durham Johnston School, in Durham city, for almost two decades.

Mr Bagley, of Barnard Castle, died last week.

Originally from Sunderland, Mr Bagley was well known as the headteacher of the school between 1966 and 1982.

A former colleague and friend said: “When he joined it was a boys grammar school and he was surprised when he arrived because it had such ineffective discipline. The uniform regulations were being ignored and the academic standards weren’t very good.

“He set out to improve the all-round achievement which is what he achieved and that is his legacy.

“The school became outstanding. People used to move into the area around the school to be in the catchment.

“There have been many headmasters since that have built on that reputation but he effected that change.”

During his time in charge of the school, he oversaw several major changes, including admitting girls for the first time in 1970 and it becoming a comprehensive school in 1979.

Andrew O’Sullivan, the school’s acting headteacher, said: “As head, Mr Bagley was instrumental in establishing the school’s reputation for academic excellence.

“He was an imposing figure who expected high standards from staff and pupils alike.”

Mr Bagley, who served as a gunner and parachutist during the Second World War, rising to the rank of captain, fighting in Burma and as part of the occupational army in Germany.

He met his wife Margaret while studying at King’s College, in Newcastle, which was then part of Durham University, where he gained a first class honours degree in history.

They married in 1948 and initially lived in East Boldon, where Mr Bagley taught history at Ryhope Grammar School, before moving to Barnard Castle, where he became the first headmaster of Barnard Castle Grammar Technical School in 1959.

In his retirement, Mr Bagley enjoyed tending his garden, walking and travelling.

Earlier this year, the couple moved to the Manor House Care Home. He is survived by Mrs Bagley.

  • The funeral will take place on Thursday, March 15 at 10am at Holy Trinity Church, in Startforth, near Barnard Castle.