Sir James Hill Bt OBE DL

Chairman of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, Sir James Hill, spent from 1962 until 1964 studying a ‘Spinners Special’ at the Bradford Institute of Advanced Technology and also doing City & Guilds courses in the Textile Department of the Technical College.

Sir James HillSir James has had an extensive and successful career in textiles, travel, transport, and energy related companies, but now devotes much of his time to voluntary and charitable activities, in particular in the health, disability and education sectors in the Bradford and West Yorkshire area. Sir James is a 4th Baronet and was awarded an OBE in 2000 and an honorary doctorate from the University of Bradford in 1997. He is also a Deputy Lieutenant of West Yorkshire.

Sir James Hill is Chairman of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, has been a member of the SSAT’s Council since 2003, and previously held the role of Deputy Chairman. He is also Chair of the Board of Governors at Dixons City Academy, Bradford, and Co-Chair of the Academies and Colleges Association. He has held a variety of roles in further and higher education in West Yorkshire.

“I stood for President of the Students’ Union and borrowed my father’s Bentley to go round canvassing. It was probably a bit like the current controversy of ‘toffs’ standing for parliament! I lost on a postal vote from students at McMillan.

I remember some of us used to access the roof above what was then the new lecture theatre for swotting and more often, sunbathing. We would lean over the roof and throw paper darts at girls below and when we spied the ice cream man, one of us would make his way down through a lecture in progress, returning with ice creams.

We used to go for frothy coffees and cheese sandwiches in between lectures and if it was a fairly quiet day we would skip classes and sneak off to the Asoldo Cinema on Manningham Lane where they showed X rated movies. We would sit there sheepishly watching what must be very tame films by today’s standards but featuring topless girls. When the lights came up and we looked round we saw about 100 students and some of the younger lecturers!

I did the C&G 2 year course but that didn’t give you the qualification as it took 3 years, so 5 of us signed up to an extra course which was mainly evenings and day release. We quickly worked it out that if one of us in turn attended 1 class in 5 and copied the notes for the others, we got a lot of nights off!

We also had practical sessions. I got some wool from my company, scoured it, carded it, proccessed it and my friend Bill, who did spinning and weaving, helped me. Something went wrong in the finishing which meant that what was meant to be a smart dark blue suit had to be dyed black. It became the black morning suit I got married in!”

Photograph supplied by the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust