Hinckley’s educational pioneer honoured with blue plaque

Published Thursday, 06 October 2022
Chris Gittins honoured with blue plaque

Three generations of one family gathered at Hinckley & Bosworth Borough Council to honour the latest recipient of a blue plaque.

The Gittins family, who travelled from Reading, Newcastle and London, were welcomed by the Mayor of Hinckley and Bosworth, Councillor Dawn Glenville, as they were presented with a picture of their ancestor, the late John Stanley Gittins OBE. 

John Stanley Gittins fought to help and support young offenders throughout his lifetime and was born in Hinckley’s Clarendon Road in 1910. He became renowned for his work in changing the lives of young people. 

The blue plaque scheme aims to commemorate the link between notable figures of the past and the buildings in which they lived or worked.  

For the presentation, the Mayor was joined by her consort councillor Barry Walker, as well as a former colleague of John Gittins, Sir Roger Singleton CBE. Sir Roger is a former Chief Executive of Barnardo’s children’s charity.

John Stanley Gittins was educated at Hinckley’s former Grammar School, before studying chemistry at University. He went on to teach, which is where he found both national and international prominence.

John was eventually head hunted by the Home Office to become an Inspector of Approved Schools and Remand Homes, an institution which would take young offenders into residential care. This remained both John’s area of expertise and his passion for the rest of his life.

In 1942, John opened an approved school in Aycliffe, County Durham, to support and help 200 of the most troubled boys in the North East. Here, John set about devising a system to assess the boys’ background and circumstances, as well as their needs and potential. The school became a community, with John believing that the arts were of great importance in peoples’ lives. Many of his Aycliffe protégées went on to have senior positions in childcare and social work.

After the war, John visited Germany on behalf of the Home Office to offer advice and to help with the caring of the numerous street children and orphans left by the war. He produced a book, published by the government, called ‘Approved School Boys’, based on his experience.  

John was also involved in establishing the National Bureau for Co-Operation in Childcare. Throughout the remainder of his career, John strived to generate positive public interest in work with young offenders. It was eight years after his award of an OBE that he retired in 1970. John died in October 1996.

Mayor of Hinckley and Bosworth, Councillor Dawn Glenville, said:

We were thrilled to be able to welcome John Stanley Gittins’ family to celebrate the blue plaque which has gone up in his honour. John was an educational pioneer and worked tirelessly throughout his life to support young people and young offenders. His legacy is an inspiration for us all and I am happy that we can remember his work every time we walk past the new blue plaque.

Commenting on the presentation, local Historian Greg Drozdz said:

To be nominated and accepted for a blue plaque in the town is a true honour and whilst only a few people know of John Gittins, he deserves the title of great for the work that he achieved in changing the lives of young people. The family were delighted to be in Hinckley and we were grateful for the hospitality shown to them by the council and the Mayor. The family took the opportunity to visit the town’s Museum during their stay and will present family material to the Museum at a later date.