Papers of Peter Cornall (b. 1930)

Scope and Content

These papers relate to all stages of Cornall's professional career and include talks, lectures and articles; internal administrative papers written for the schools in which he worked; materials written for circulation amongst colleagues and the wider world; and his own personal reflections. They reflect many of his personal educational interests including comprehensive education, curriculum development, internal school management, falling rolls, school headship, school self-evaluation, educational guidance, and value-added by schools. Also included is a report of a study visit made to the United States in 1963.

Administrative / Biographical History

1955 Qualified as a teacher from the University of Oxford in 1955

1955-1959 History teacher at comprehensive secondary school Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire

1959-1964 Director of Studies and 'Second Master' at comprehensive school in London, Crown Woods School

1964-1967 Education Officer in Wiltshire

1967-1972 Headteacher of comprehensive school in Nottinghamshire, West Bridgford Grammar School

1972-1981 Headteacher of comprehensive school in the Isle of Wight, Carisbrooke High School

1981-1991 County Senior (then Chief) Inspector of Schools in Cornwall

1991 Retired

1992-1993 Honorary Research Fellow of the University of Leicester, and school governor and trustee of the Centre for the Study of Comprehensive Schools

Peter Cornall was born in 1930. His mother was a teacher and came from a generation of teachers; his father was a highways surveyor for the County Council, and a local government officer. In 1941 he received a bursary to attend Clifton College, a small 'preparatory' boarding school in Bristol, leaving behind his suburban 'elementary' school. He went on to attend the University of Oxford, undertaking an undergraduate degree in History, and a Diploma in Education, qualifying in 1955.

After completing his studies he applied for roles as a History teacher, and in 1955 was offered 2 posts, one at a small grammar school in Oxfordshire (Chipping Norton) which was about to become 'bilateral' ('comprehensive'), and one at a boarding school in Somerset (Wellington School). He accepted the post at Chipping Norton (1955-59), and it was during his time here that he became interested in a future as an Education Officer, as he has noted, 'a more 'real' life beckoned, and experience which would count towards the goal of a Country Education Officer's desk.' His second post was at a comprehensive school in London Crown Woods School, Eltham (1964-1967), and his third as an Assistant Education Officer in Wiltshire (1964-1981). After this he became head teacher of a comprehensive school in Nottinghamshire (West Bridgeford Grammar School, 1967-1972) where he was faced with the task of amalgamating two schools, as he has noted 'the task had been to prove that a comprehensive school created by amalgamation could retain the confidence of an almost entirely middle class community.' He and his family then moved to the Isle of Wight where he became head master of comprehensive Carisbrooke High School (1972-1981). He has noted that in both these headships he sought to make the schools exemplars, 'West Bridgeford of how to bring together a prestigious grammar school and a well-respected secondary modern, Carisbrooke of how to provide the fullest possible foundation for success.'

He left Isle of Wight as he 'hankered once again after work which would allow [him] regular access to more of the service than a single school, and the chance before [his] career was over to exercise a wider influence, drawing on varied experience of twenty-five years working directly or in directly for comprehensive education.' This led to him in 1981 becoming Cornwall's Senior (later Chief) Inspector of Schools (1981-1991) here he created a full advisory service and promoted curriculum development and school review. He retired in 1991. Throughout his career Cornall retained an unswerving commitment to comprehensive secondary education. During 1992-1993 Cornall was Honorary Research Fellow of the University of Leicester, researching into 'value-added' a study into comprehensive education. He also remained a school governor and trustee of the Centre for the Study of Comprehensive Schools for several years.


Arranged and listed by Peter Cornall himself before transfer to the archive.

Access Information


Open, subject to signature of Reader Application Form.

Acquisition Information

Given by Peter Cornall in 2000.

Other Finding Aids


Conditions Governing Use

A reader wishing to publish any quotation of information, including pictorial, derived from any archive material must apply in writing for prior permission from the Archivist or other appropriate person(s) as indicated by the Archivist. A limited number of photocopies may be supplied at the discretion of the Archivist.

Custodial History

Transferred to the archives by Peter Cornall in September 2000, later accession received January 2008

Personal Names