Haydn Davies Jones : An Appreciation

The late Haydn Davies Jones, who died on 4 August 2012, was a leading champion of high quality residential child care during a period when the service was underresourced, undervalued and misunderstood.

Haydn was born on 4 February 1924 in the valleys of South Wales at Penrhiwceiber, near Mountain Ash, now in Rhondda Cynon Taff. His first name reflected the Welsh love of music and their respect for the German composer (though they chose to pronounce it Hay-den). His surname was originally Jones, but there are so many plain Joneses in Wales that he chose to differentiate himself by incorporating his second name and becoming a Davies Jones. He was, however, affectionately known to many people, such as his students, as HDJ.


Haydn’s love of Wales, Welsh culture, the Welsh language and Welsh music ran as a significant thread through the whole of his life, and even in his final years he spent time studying the language, reading the literature and conversing with his wife Elinor in Welsh (though she speaks North Welsh and he spoke South Welsh). He could recite passages from the Mabinogion in his mellifluous voice.

His early life in the Welsh valleys also affected him throughout his career. Haydn had a natural sympathy with people who had suffered from deprivation, deep-rooted in his childhood and upbringing. As a boy he saw miners coming to his father’s office begging for work in the mines, children with no shoes, and wives struggling to feed their families. His mother Mary ran the home and was known as the person anyone could come to in times of trouble.

Haydn was the eldest of four in a rather spread out, loving family, his younger brother being born when Haydn was at university. Brought up in a close community, school and chapel were important to him. Education was prized, and from his humble terrace emerged a surprising number of graduates and qualified teachers. He learnt that everyone deserved a chance. These were the influences that made the man and shaped his actions throughout his many-faceted career.

Learning for Life

Haydn won a place at Mountain Ash Grammar School and was educated there from 1934 to 1941. From there he obtained a place at the University of Wales in Aberystwyth. The University has campuses on several sites scattered around Wales, Aberystwyth being a town on the coast of Cardigan Bay facing onto the Irish Sea.

Haydn attended the University for a year from 1941 to 1942, before joining the Fleet Air Arm as an Observer. He was promoted to the rank of Sub-Lieutenant. After the Second World War he returned to University to complete his studies.

Although he was reading for Honours in History, Haydn’s love of the Welsh language (which he had learnt at school, not in the home) was strengthened. Aberystwyth at that time was a very Welsh university and small enough for students to get to know many of their contemporaries. Singing hymns with great gusto in the Union was the norm. Debates with speakers such as Emlyn Hooson were fiery, while soirées where singers and players showed off their musical prowess proved that Wales really was a land of song.

In this atmosphere it was not surprising that there was a lot of pairing off and eventually in his Honours year this is what happened to Haydn. At the first hop of the year in the old ballroom on the pier (where often you couldn’t hear the band for the sound of the sea) he was persuaded to appear by his ex-service friends. Down the road in the Women’s Hostel Elinor Owen was likewise persuaded by a friend and that is where fate took a hand: came the last waltz, a request for the dance, and they one-two-threed away, anything but in step. The mile walk along the prom to the halls of residence, and it was coffee the next morning, and endless miles while he lectured on the Jacobites, his thesis subject. As Elinor was in her teacher-training year and had plenty of time to listen, having graduated in English the year before, this was not a problem. At the end of the year came the proposal of marriage on Constitution Hill, together with a box of Black Magic chocolates.

Education in the Royal Navy

After obtaining an Honours degree in History and Welsh in 1948, Haydn accepted a five-year commission in the Royal Navy Education Branch, based at the Royal Naval Barracks in Portsmouth, teaching naval history. He was also seconded to the Royal Navy Detention Quarters as Education Officer, where he worked closely with probation and psychiatric services. He was moving by stages towards the main theme of his career.

During this commission Haydn and Elinor were married on 16 April 1949 – a marriage which was to last until his death over sixty-three years later. Haydn and Elinor settled in Portsmouth as a young couple following their respective careers. After a short-term teaching job near Warrington Elinor had moved down to Portsmouth, teaching in a Secondary Modern School for five years.

Haydn was lucky to serve under a compassionate and far-seeing Commander at the Royal Navy Detention Quarters. There he was asked to write a new, more humane version of the rules and regulations for these establishments. Haydn became Editor of Pompey Magazine, distributed widely to the naval personnel. He was also in demand as the announcer for the Command Sports. Once he had to entertain the actress Margaret Lockwood, who was opening the festivities. Other celebrities he encountered were Ludovic Kennedy and his bride-to-be, the ballerina Moira Shearer, when he attended a course at Ashridge on social problems. Leisure time was spent on the Isle of Wight, swimming and playing cricket on the beach with friends, or walking the South Downs.

From 1950 to 1953 Haydn studied externally with London University for Honours LLB, which he obtained in 1953.

Where next? Wellesley

The question was – what should he do next? Should he go back to the Navy for a further five years or grow ground nuts in South Africa, jobs being rather hard to get?

Like so many careers, the crucial turning point for Haydn could be said to have been purely accidental. It was triggered by his involvement with the prisoners at the Royal Detention Quarters and by his friendship with a probation officer. It was he who encouraged Haydn to apply for the grand-sounding post of Commander – or Deputy Head – at Wellesley Nautical Training School.

Wellesley was one of the two remaining nautical training schools (the other being at Portishead near Bristol) from a service which had been at its peak in the nineteenth century when old wooden warships were moored off shore as reformatories for young offenders and industrial training schools to prepare boys for life in the Royal Navy, Merchant Navy or other nautical jobs such as fishing. These hulks had been closed down, and in the case of the TS Wellesley, the old ship, formerly HMS Boscawen, had been gutted by fire where it was anchored at North Shields in Northumberland, and the school had to come ashore.

By the time that Haydn moved there the school had places for 140 boys, and it still ran a strict regime, but it also gave boys valuable life skills, not only in preparing them for work at sea but also offering chances to cope with testing situations, to achieve and to develop self-confidence. A proportion of the boys followed a nautical career, but not all.

At Wellesley some of Haydn’s innovations had a softening influence. He brought in housefathers to work closely with the boys, and he involved his own family. He also created links with the local community as much as possible and emphasised the importance of continuing after-care. He was also a good listener, accessible to the boys.

Other developments were to offer a more stimulating and varied range of activities. He initiated the introduction of the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme at the school, culminating in a visit by Prince Philip by helicopter. He led many expeditions – the Pennine Way in winter with twenty boys, the Lyke Wake Walk, and visits to the Capel Curig CCPR Centre in North Wales.

From 1953 to 1955 Haydn was Commander. He was then promoted to the post of Captain – or Head – of Wellesley, a post which he held for six years up to 1961, during which he took an external LLM with London University in 1959. Haydn was therefore well grounded in the difficult task of residential child care, its management and its governance.

Was his way of working successful? It is often hard to tell when investing time in the lives of troubled children and young people. Haydn, though, had the satisfaction long after his retirement of meeting more than a dozen former pupils of Wellesley who had been through the school while he was there. His final link with Wellesley was in 2009 at the rededication of the War Memorial for former Wellesley boys who had died in the two World Wars. This had been rescued when the school was being demolished, and it was re-sited at St Cuthbert’s Church in Blyth, through the hard work of several men formerly at the school.

The Church was packed and among the congregation were fourteen former Wellesley boys. The impression they gave was that life at Wellesley had been hard, but that they had been treated firmly but fairly, they had learnt life skills as well as nautical skills, and their training had provided a valuable basis for adult life. Many had had distinguished careers in the Merchant Navy as Captains. They all held Haydn in high esteem. Haydn was delighted to take part, laying a wreath, and it was an emotional and satisfying experience to round off a long career.

Moulding a Profession

Haydn’s move from Wellesley was sideways step into academia. In 1961 he was appointed Lecturer at the Institute of Education, University of Newcastle upon Tyne. He was in due course promoted to the post of Senior Lecturer and finally Dean of Education, and he remained with the University until his retirement in 1989.

The course which Haydn took over had originally been set up in 1948 and sited at Durham University at the instigation of John Gittins, a far-sighted educationist who wanted to see residential child care staff professionally trained. Following the move to Newcastle the course was established at post-qualifying course level. It was funded largely by the Home Office for senior staff working with children and young people, mainly in residential care, and it led to the Senior Certificate in the Residential Care of Children and Young People awarded by the Central Training Council in Child Care, and the Diploma in Advanced Educational Studies, awarded by the University.

Although there were similar courses at London and Glasgow Universities, the field was in the main dominated by the Bristol University course under the leadership of the late Chris Beedell and Haydn’s Newcastle course. There is a danger in sweeping generalisations, but in broad terms these two courses reflected the interests of Chris and Haydn, with the Bristol course having a greater emphasis on therapeutic care and Newcastle being more educational.

The students attracted to Haydn’s course were mainly senior staff working in residential child care or those likely to be promoted. There were a dozen or so participants each year, which means that over Haydn’s 28 years running the course well over three hundred heads of schools and homes will have had the benefit of the course, many of them being promoted subsequently to be heads of agencies and local government departments. Indeed several became authors of significant texts on residential child care.

With his own students Haydn made a point of tutoring individually. These sessions were much appreciated, and for those who enjoyed walking they were sometimes conducted at a brisk pace on the hoof. He supervised the work of many PhD students, but never took a Doctorate himself.

He always considered the personal contact more important than the written word, and one unhappy result was that his published oeuvre did not reflect his thinking or his impact on the profession. He edited a text for FICE on the role of the social pedagogue, and published a number of articles and monographs, including the National Children’s Homes Centenary Lecture, which he had given, and a description of social pedagogy for the National Institute for Social Work.

Haydn believed that the ideas and values which underpinned the course should be reflected in its content. Since he was advocating group care as a means of working with children and young people, students on the Newcastle course found themselves at the start of their first term at Capel Curig in North Wales on mountaineering programmes – nuns included, but clad in the right gear. Ostensibly the student group were practising living together, to help them bond as a group, but Haydn’s family used to say, “Pull the other one, Dad; it’s only an excuse to get to the tops”. One of his prized memories was of a group of musical students singing Cwm Rhondda at the Wainstones on the Lyke Wake Walk – with Haydn of course singing in Welsh.

Haydn’s course was also memorable for the activity lectures which students had to attend, the most outstanding being the free drama sessions run by Dorothy Heathcote. Although she left school at fourteen to become a mill worker, her enthusiasm for drama led to a career which included a doctorate and winning the Silver Rose of Montreux. More importantly her students were inspired to apply what they had learnt with children in residential care.

As part of the DAES course students had to write theses, providing a wide range of insights into many aspects of residential care. Unhappily it appears that the University has seen fit to destroy this valuable archive, but a few still survive.

Always in search of new and telling experiences in residential care, Haydn visited students and alumni in their own settings. As a result, he was in command of a unique network with a focus on all aspects of life for children living away from home.

Lecturing, Chairing, Tutoring and Writing

During his university career Haydn lectured widely, on other university courses and at evenings and weekends. He covered the British constitution, the British legal system, sociology and criminology. He spoke at national conferences, such as the National Children’s Homes centenary and a particularly memorable presentation at the Boarding Schools Association.

In particular he had close links with Cumbria where he was deeply involved, having been persuaded to become the neutral Chairman of the Committee dealing with Youth, when the warring factions of Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire could not agree. Together with Eric Nixon he ran weekend Youth Officer groups in Cumbria for many years.

Haydn continued to play a part in the justice system. One of Haydn’s important roles was serving on the Parole Board of Durham Prison. Another was lecturing to Magistrates, Probation Officers and lawyers, where his legal knowledge and practical experience in the fields of criminology and delinquency proved invaluable.

Haydn also played a significant role in Working Party Z in the late 1960s. This was a group of tutors for training courses for residential child care workers who wanted to improve the qualifying training system. They formed a powerful and influential group, shaping professional thinking. Subsequently the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work created a new qualifying training framework incorporating residential child care, but Working Party Z had done invaluable groundwork.

International influences

In 1970 Haydn spent three months in Hong Kong, lecturing to police, magistrates and colleges, but it was Europe which had the greater impact on his career. In 1975 he had a sabbatical year in which he toured Europe, with one term in Copenhagen (with visits to Norway), the next in Zurich (visiting Austria and Germany) and the third in Lausanne (visiting France). He worked in various seminaria and colleges, studying social pedagogy and social education with its differing perspectives and training. There he became involved with members of the Fédération Internationale des Communautés Educatives (FICE).

One of the major influences on Haydn’s professional thinking was his connection with his European friends. He was a member of H.C. Rasmussen’s select group, all involved with the residential care of children. There he heard of the profession of social pedagogue or educateur specialisé.

In broad terms social pedagogy is the term used for child care in northern Europe whereas in southern Europe it is termed social education. The terms have been in use for many years, but it was after the Second World War that the overwhelming childcare problems facing many countries with orphaned and refugee children that prompted radical re-thinking about the needs of children with extreme problems. What emerged was a group of concepts under the title of social pedagogy or social education which have served continental European countries well for the last sixty years – addressing children’s problems holistically, recognising the key importance of child: worker relationships, using activities as a means of building confidence and trust, and so on. How these ideas are applied differs from one country to another, but the United Kingdom had not suffered the breakdown of services experienced in many European countries in the 1940s, and so had carried on with no radical rethink and had patched up its old systems.

From the outset Haydn was hooked on social pedagogy and became a missionary for the cause in the United Kingdom, though for the rest of his career at Newcastle University he was apparently crying in the wilderness.

When the Social Care Association decided it no longer wished to represent the UK as a member of the Federation Internationale des Communautés Educatives (FICE), Professor Heinrich Tuggener of Zurich University, who was the President, invited Haydn to act in a personal capacity to maintain the links between FICE and the UK. In this capacity Haydn edited and contributed to Living with Others as a Profession (Leben mit Andern als Beruf), which was published in English and German. It was the first book on social pedagogy in English, and remains a valuable text.

Haydn fulfilled his FICE role until 1988, but he maintained his professional links. He continued to lecture widely at conferences and was valued for his clarity and fluency, using only notes on cards. After enforced retirement from the University at 65, Haydn was much in demand as a lecturer on the Norwegian course run in the School of Education at Newcastle University, as well as in other European countries and occasionally in the USA at colleges and conferences. This included annual visits to Denmark to lecture to social pedagogy courses, which he only gave up at the age of 80.

Haydn’s international contacts still have fond memories of him, his anecdotes, his concern for others, and his Welshness. Despite his strong national affiliation, Haydn was seen as thinking transnationally, with moral authority, and he was widely respected.

In the UK the concept of social pedagogy is at last being piloted and adopted in several parts of the country, and Haydn’s influence has contributed to this.

Wales and Mountains

Haydn retired from his University post in 1989, which gave him time for other activities. His interest in all things Welsh has already been mentioned, but his other interest lay in hills and mountains. He and Elinor shared many common interests, but particularly Wales and the hills. Many were the arguments as to who had started whom on mountaineering, but Elinor, born in sight of Cader Idris in North Wales and tottering up hill from the age of two, certainly had the better case.

The Welsh hills, the Lakes, Galloway, Torridon and the Cairngorms were all important in his life, together with Northumbria, his home for almost sixty years. He climbed many thousands of feet but the best of all were hut to hut tours in the Austrian Alps, with his wife and then with their children at an early age, and later with his musical grandsons.

Haydn the Man

As a man Haydn had an easy personality and he made lasting friendships with the people who had been in his care, his students, his colleagues and contacts in many countries. He was good company, generous in every way, especially with his time, being always approachable. He was happy to share experiences and little delighted him more than the general discussions which ended and punctuated every lecture. He was a good raconteur, with a fund of anecdotes. To illustrate a point in a lecture he would happily tell stories against himself, although it was apparent to all that he had been a first-class practitioner. To continue the debate he would invite students and colleagues to a local hostelry or, often, to his home where Elinor’s hospitality was appreciated. The outcome was the large number of staff, alumni and colleagues in other countries who stayed in touch with him.

Haydn was also eternally positive in his working relations. It was very difficult to get him to say anything critical as he always chose to value the good points in people. Indeed, when he was criticising a student’s work, the impression created was that one had done good work, but had been shown ways of developing an idea, gaining deeper insights or expanding the subject.

Quality was important to Haydn, whether it was in the choice of wines (which he selected for the University high table) or residential child care, the careful choice of words in a speech or the Alpine vistas when he was on holiday. Haydn valued friendships, and he and Elinor maintained contact with many people in retirement – former students, ex-colleagues, FICE contacts and many others – through letters, shared holidays, or meals at their home in Ponteland.

Haydn was always active, from the early (very early) morning cup of tea which he served to house guests. He played cricket. He climbed. He swam. Former Wellesley boys tell of the time that he wanted to take photographs on an island in a Scottish loch, so he swam out to the island with one arm, while holding the camera above his head to keep it dry with the other. Haydn skied. When the snow was thick and the roads were closed he skied the ten miles to the University from his home in Ponteland down a disused railway track. And, of course, he walked. Even after hip replacements and when seriously ill he still kept up his constitutional walks in the area round his home. Haydn was 88 when he died, having suffered a cruel combination of debilitating illnesses in his final months.

Professionally, without question, the influence Haydn has exerted is immense through the thoughts he instilled, amounting often to a paradigm shift in the minds of his students, to the cascading effect upon the lives of young people in care through the practice he helped develop. During a period in which residential child care has been subject to lack of resources and support, denigration and scandals, Haydn showed both in his practice and his teaching that there could be good residential child care services. His name will retain a lofty position in the pantheon of social educators.

Personally, Haydn was a loyal husband for sixty-three years and a father who liked to take part in the ‘lifespace’ of his children, Geraint and Rhiannon and grandsons Christopher and Andrew, living what he taught as a real social pedagogue.

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