No. 200

OSB Logo The Old St Beghian
  January 2022


Jane Routledge (G 77-82)


Jane recalls ‘Memories from 40-plus years ago’:

It’s sobering to think that it will be 45 years in September since seventeen (I think it was seventeen) of us ‘new girls’ walked around the corner to Chapel on the first day of that autumn term in 1977 to be confronted by the curious gaze of around 300 boys and staff. Our arrival marked the beginning of co-education throughout the school, not just in the sixth form. We were a real-life, social experiment.  Looking back to those early days, it may be hard for more recent pupils to appreciate what a big moment this was for St Bees, its traditions, and quite simply its day-to- day life.


The seventeen of us entered a world where the whole school turned out for every home game to watch the 1st XV play rugby on a Saturday; where huge bowls of cereal were on the daily menu after games mid afternoon; and boys were routinely addressed by their surnames until the sixth form. It was truly a different world.

I spent the three years from the third to fifth form (Years 9 to 11 in today’s terms) in a classroom with twenty two boys and two other girls, being called Jane and at first being a head taller than almost all the boys. By the time we reached the sixth form I no longer stood out for my height, but I was the only girl doing each of my A level subjects. I survived, prospered even, but looking back from a forty-year vantage point, there is little doubt it was quite an unusual experience. That said, I look back on my St Bees’ years fondly, and firmly believe they set me up well for the challenges that lay ahead in the world of work.

Unsurprisingly, my detailed memories of life as Head Girl are limited. Responsibilities were largely centred on the running of Grindal, then the girls’ boarding house:  house rotas, bedtimes, prep supervisions and the younger pupils’ adherence to rules around uniform and appearance. That last one on the list makes me smile. My mother kept every single one of my school reports as well as my sister’s. In one of mine from the fifth form, I came across this gem:

‘This term Jane has shown us some of the least desirable aspects of adolescence, a general sulkiness of aspect and lack of desire to co-operate. She should also look at the rules on length of hair and jewellery.’ 


Heads of School - Jane Routledge
Jane Routledge at School
Heads of School - Jane Routledge

After school and university, I moved to London. I have spent 35 years in the investment management industry. As I mentioned earlier, St Bees set me up well to cope with whatever life would throw at me. Back in 1986 investment management was an environment with few women in senior roles. In truth, it was an environment where there were few women employed generally. That world has changed and continues to change just as St Bees itself also has continued to evolve.


Heads of School - Jane Routledge

Geoff  Lees, Headmaster (1963- 1980), who later became a dear friend, once remarked on some frustration I was voicing about work:

‘Jane, you must remember you are at the forefront of a revolution not the end of one.’

In those early days, I was working at the Bank of England - I have never forgotten that remark. As ever, Geoff’s point was apposite and elegantly expressed. It is only now looking back that I can truly see how much foresight he had. The seventeen girls from that September day in 1977 were part of the huge wave of change that was building across society. I am very grateful for the opportunities and challenges that have come my way as a result.

Today I am still working in investment management, as a Non-Executive Director. I am now also involved in the world of education and for me, importantly, education in Cumbria. I sit on the Board of Cumbria Education Trust which runs thirteen primary and secondary schools across the county, including some along the west coast of Cumbria. I live with my family and our two dogs in London, supporting Arsenal FC – it’s a family requirement! At the same time, I have deep, enduring Cumbrian roots and visit regularly.

Jane - September 2021




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