Dorothy Heathcote had her critics too

12th September 2014

I’ve been digging around in the Heathcote archive for the last few days researching the origins of mantle of the expert for a Chapter in a book.

Finding a definitive date for when Dorothy first used the term has been frustrating. The earliest dated document mentioning ‘mantle of the expert’ is an article written by Heathcote for the Secondary School Theatre Journal, in 1975.

However, Sandra Heston proposes 1972 in her PhD thesis. As evidence she sites a paper which she says was authored by Heathcote in that year [See Appendix 10, p. 216). However, when I searched for the document itself in the archive it turned out to be neither dated nor attributed. Which is strange.

Not to worry, I’m sure there is a perfectly valid explanation. Sandra was a close friend of Dorothy’s and it is likely Dorothy recognised the document and gave Heston the date. I’ll write to her and ask. Mystery solved.

Well, not quite. The original is really quite odd [Ref. AC115].


As you can see it is type-written in a style that is easily recognisable as Heathcote’s. The mystery is in the hand-written notes, whose are these? And why did Dorothy keep them in her possession? They are hardly complimentary:

Mantle of the Expert – “Does this mean the teacher?”

…a commitment from the children to learn the information and the skills they will need. – “It would never work with Class 3!!!”

A discipline for the class which provides a framework in which attitudes are contained without the teacher imposing rules and demands. – “Tell that to Mr. Wilson!”

Children employ what they already know and no information will be fed to them first. – “Class 3 didn’t seem to know much anyway”

…teachers can diagnose what children know already. – “Nothing!”

Apparently the other person, whoever they are, was not a fan. Dorothy had some stern critics in her time.

As it turns out, I later found the same information elsewhere in the archive, but this time without the handwritten notes [ref. AI042].


It would seem Dorothy was unperturbed by her detractor and carried on regardless. She was a dauntless woman, unafraid to take on the knockers… a lesson worth remembering for us all.

Follow up, October 2023. We received this email from Dr Sandra Heston herself with more information.

Dear Tim & David,

Yesterday, I was browsing the MoE website ( when I came across an entry dated 12th September 2014 re: that there was a ‘mystery’ surrounding a particular Mantle of the Expert document quoted in my PhD (Volume Two, See Appendix 10, N.B. p202 not p216).

Perhaps, I can clarify the situation. During 1972-3, when I was on DH’s Diploma Course, I copied that definition of MoE in my own handwriting (in those days, we didn’t have iPhones) from the ‘chalk’ handwritten note by DH on the blackboard. It was then typed by me and included as Appendix 10 in my PhD as the earliest record I could find of MoE. (She described that document later, in a tutorial with me, as corresponding to where “I was in my thinking at that time”.) As it was recorded in the PhD, my copy was not included in the archive.

Additionally, as was DH’s wont, I often discovered other copies of the same document and some with annotations (Dorothy rarely dated anything). Those without any comment were removed but those with remained. If Dorothy made specific mention to any annotated document copies during tutorials, I included it, whenever possible, either in the Keyword Index or the PhD or in my rough notes which now act as a prompt to my memory!

In the case of document AC115, she didn’t add any further comments on the annotations – other than: “I think what I want … let others think what they want”. Neither was she able to identify the author of the annotation.

I hope that sheds some light on the particular document quoted in my PhD (Volume Two, See Appendix 10, p. 202) which does date back to a blackboard in Newcastle during the 1972-3 Diploma Course which I attended.

The intention behind my PhD MoE Appendices 10 (p202) 11(pp203-206) &12 (p207) was to show MoE examples of the earliest (1972-3), the middle (1984) and, at that time, the latest (1992); as located in DH’s boxes on which I based the archive. and which were approved by her.

DH also approved of her methodology being reflected both in the process of creating the archive and in the accessing of it. So it very gratifying to think that whoever was searching used her ‘Detective Model’ to try to solve the problem these two documents posed.

I hope that helps. Please feel free to use the above as further clarification on your respective websites.

Hope you are both well and congratulations on the recent DH conference.

Best wishes,


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