1930 until 1956 – The Johnstone Era

With the opening of the new School came a new Head – William Arthur Johnstone and his wife Jessie. Arts and crafts remained a strong feature but the School Certificate became firmly established under his direction in both academic and practical subjects. Johnstone came to Sibford as a practising Quaker and had been incarcerated in Dartmoor during the First World War for his conscientious objection. He was born at Burton-on-Trent in 1891, the youngest of six. He was educated locally before entering London University where he obtained a Science Degree and a Diploma of Education. His father was a Scottish Presbyterian and his mother a Methodist, but the Quaker Peace Testimony attracted Arthur, as he preferred to be known, to the Society of Friends. ‘A.J.’ as Arthur was commonly known at Sibford was in his first teaching post in Chester when the Conscription Act came into force in 1916, he registered as a conscientious objector. After the War he returned to teaching at the Quaker schools of Lancaster and Lisburn. He married Jessie Pickering in 1922 while he was teaching at the Alleynes Grammar School at Uttoxeter, where he spent nine years before coming to Sibford.

Arthur Johnstone was Sibford’s great enigma. Very few people who came into contact with him could ever say that they knew him well and yet he imbued into his students a legacy of good standards and great appreciation of art, crafts and music – certainly music was his great passion – albeit the classical variety, and the School still boasts a strong empathy in this direction. Certainly, the academic level improved dramatically in Johnstone’s time, with very good passes in both the School Certificate and later the General Certificate of Education. However, there are many who thought that Sibford did move away from its classic roots in Johnstone’s twenty-five years to become a quasi-Grammar School. Nevertheless, many of its pupils, during those difficult days which encompassed World War Two have a deep, spiritual thankfulness for their time spent at Sibford.