My mother, Gwen Hunt, who has died of Alzheimer’s aged 92, dedicated her life to the needs of the vulnerable, pioneering new approaches to the care and education of young people, and was an indefatigable community campaigner.
Born in Ramsgate, Kent, the only daughter of Jack Edwards, a water company engineer, and his wife, Jessie (nee Gorton), Gwen attended Clarendon House school, Ramsgate, and in 1945 went to Goldsmith’s College London to study for a teaching certificate, which she obtained in 1947.
On a children’s summer school, she met Gerald Hunt, who was training to be a PE teacher. They married in 1950 and together they went to work at a children’s home in Broadstairs, building a wonderful partnership with compassion at the heart of their work. In 1963, working with the Home Office, they opened Thornbury House, a boys’ remand home at Kidlington, Oxfordshire, experimenting with the care and observation of young offenders by managing them in family units and making recommendations to courts for supporting their future. This pioneering approach influenced the national debate around youth justice and contributed to government policy.
In 1971 Gwen went to Gosford Hill secondary school, Kidlington, as deputy head, with responsibility for pastoral care and the development of opportunities for children with special educational needs. There, she introduced a model of inclusion for SEN children in the mainstream, working closely with families.
When Gerald died suddenly in 1978, Gwen was determined to ensure their vision lived on. In 1988 she retired from Gosford Hill and moved to Bloxham, near Banbury, where she was on the board of the district council’s Community Partnership Network for seven years, working with Banbury Young Homelessness Project, the charity Children in Touch, working on a new support service across Oxfordshire for young people with autism, and as chair of the Turner’s Court Trust in Berkshire, helping vulnerable boys and homeless young mothers. Gwen was uncompromising in challenging poor institutional practice and was a strong defender of the marginalised through care and compassion.
In her local community she was also a parish councillor and chair of both the primary school’s governors and the Oxfordshire Valuation Tribunal. She was involved in the successful fight to save the Horton hospital, Banbury. She was also active at St Mary’s church, Bloxham, as deanery lay chair, organist and choir organiser. She established annual community singing days and ran soup Saturdays for older people. She played the piano for local groups and created amazing gardens wherever she lived.
In 2013 she moved back to Broadstairs, where the family had spent many happy and memorable holidays.
Gwen is survived by my sister, Kate, and me, and by her grandchildren, Chris, Nick, Lily, Louis and Reuben, and great-granddaughter, Everley.
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