Brian Simon

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Brian Simon (26 March 1915 – 17 January 2002) was an English educationist and historian.

Background and early life[edit]

The younger son of Ernest Darwin Simon, 1st Baron Simon of Wythenshawe and Shena, Lady Simon, he was the brother of the second Baron Simon of Wythenshawe, Roger Simon, the solicitor and writer on Gramsci.

After Gresham's School, Holt, Norfolk, where he was a contemporary of Benjamin Britten and Donald Maclean, and two terms at Schule Schloss Salem, under the headship of Kurt Hahn, Simon went up to Trinity College, Cambridge in 1934, becoming a leader of the University Education Society. In 1935 he joined the Communist Party of Great Britain (as his brother Roger would do a year later) and the student Marxist Study Group.

After Cambridge he went to the University of London's Institute of Education to train as a teacher.


In 1938, he was appointed to the newly formed Labour Party education advisory committee and was elected secretary of the National Union of Students branch at the Institute of Education, becoming president in 1939. He travelled to international student conferences, one such being with Guy Burgess in Moscow in the summer of 1939.

During the Second World War, Simon served in the Dorsetshire Regiment and the Royal Corps of Signals and was attached to the Phantom regiment (General Headquarters Liaison) which took him to many places and led to a lifelong friendship with the actor David Niven.

After the war, Simon taught in a Manchester elementary school, then at Varna Street Secondary Modern, and for three years at Salford Grammar School, where he produced a play which gave Albert Finney his first stage role.

From 1950 to 1980 Simon taught at the University of Leicester, as a lecturer, then reader (1964), professor (1966), and emeritus professor (1980).

He emerged as a major figure in the world of education, writing on the history and politics of education and advocating comprehensive schools.


  • A Student's View of the Universities (1943)
  • Intelligence Testing and the Comprehensive School (1953)
  • The Common Secondary School (1955)
  • Studies in the History of Education, 1780–1870 (1960)
  • Halfway There: Report on the British Comprehensive School Reform (with Caroline Benn, 1970)
  • Bending the Rules (1988)
  • Education and the Social Order, 1940-1990 (1991)
  • A Life in Education (1998)


On 12 February 1941 Brian Simon married Joan Peel, assistant editor of the Times Educational Supplement, the daughter of Home Peel, a civil servant in the India Office.

They had two sons, Alan (born 1943) and Martin (born 1944).

Primary sources[edit]

Brian Simon's personal papers are held in the Archives at the Institute of Education, University of London.[1]

Published Sources[edit]

  • Simon, Brian (1915–2002), educationist and historian by Roy Lowe in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  • Rethinking Radical Education: essays in honour of Brian Simon (ed. A. Rattansi and D. Reeder, 1992)
  • A Life in Education by Brian Simon (1998)
  • Brian Simon, 1915–2002 by G. McCulloch in Research Intelligence, volume 79 (March 2002), pages 30–31
  • Obituary in History of Education Society Bulletin, volume 69 (2002), pages 1–2
  • Brian Simon, by R. Lowe in History Workshop Journal, volume 56 (autumn 2003), pages 298–300
  • Corbett, Anne (22 January 2002). "Obituary: Brian Simon". The Guardian. 
  • Obituary in Times Educational Supplement 25 January 2002
  • Obituary in The Morning Star 29 January 2002


  1. ^ Institute of Education Archives. "DC/SIM Papers of Brian Simon". Retrieved 19 April 2009