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The Life of J.M. Bond

J M Bond


Moyra Bond wrote the first Assessment Papers in 1964, little knowing that, during her lifetime, the number of titles would grow to over ninety – or that, with worldwide popularity, her total sales would be counted in millions.

An article in The Times in 2001 about how to write a bestseller mentioned her along with J.K.Rowling and Joanna Trollope:

J.M. Bond is the creator of such titles as 3rd Year Mathematics Assessment Papers, a sequel to the equally gripping 2nd Year Mathematics Assessment Papers. He is the living proof that there are many ways to achieve bookshop stardom.

Note the ‘he’. 1964 was long before the days of sexual equality so, when the first book was published, it was felt that it would almost certainly prove more successful if its authorship wasn’t overtly attributed to a woman. Consequently, her name was given as the genderless ‘J.M. Bond’, and the title page said that she was the ‘Principal’ rather than the ‘Head Mistress’ of a school. It was not until 2007 that she was ‘outed’ on the internet as being female!

Moyra Bond was born in Norfolk in 1915. Her first employment was with Barclays Bank and the only indication then of the direction her career would later take was her phenomenal facility for mental arithmetic. She was able to calculate sums in her head much faster and more accurately than people who relied on pen and paper or, in more recent years, a calculator. In those days, her main claim to fame was swimming, in which she competed in county events. In 1938 she married Raymond Bond, who also worked for Barclays, and with whom she had two sons.

In 1946 Moyra Bond moved to Swanage in Dorset where she decided to become a teacher and, after training at Weymouth College, she taught mathematics at a number of local schools. Her husband died in 1956 and, two years later, she raised the money to buy Avalon, a girls’ preparatory school in West Kirby, Cheshire. She soon developed this into one of the most successful schools in the North-west.

In addition to the then universal 11-plus examination, the local education authority operated a 10-plus exam, so that they could assess how pupils had progressed over their final two years in junior school. As this extra test was unique to Cheshire, there were no books of sample questions, so Moyra Bond made up her own questions, writing them out on small slips of paper and reading them out to her classes. She developed these into a series of test papers and sent them to the publisher Thomas Nelson (now Nelson Thornes). Nelson decided to publish them and asked her to develop a comprehensive range of books for pupils aged 8 to 11, spanning English and Verbal Reasoning as well as the original Mathematics.

Moyra Bond found the inspiration for her questions almost everywhere: calculating the change when buying things in shops, experiencing small ‘adventures’ such as her car breaking down, and listening to typical conversations among her pupils. Friends and family members often found their names appearing in her questions. She revised her books regularly to keep them relevant to successive generations of students. More recently, they have been thoroughly updated (some of them in conjunction with other writers) to ensure that they conform with today’s National Curriculum. She said in 1974:

"What with developing new titles and constantly updating existing ones, the books have taken over a large part of my life. But it has all been worthwhile."

Moyra Bond was Head of Avalon School from 1958 until 1981 when she retired from teaching. Even in her retirement she pursued her love of learning, taking an Open University degree in Music and Mathematics in 1985 and gaining qualifications in photography. She settled first in Heswall in the Wirral, then moved to Surrey to be near her family, where she died in 2011, aged 95. The Assessment Papers serve as her memorial, proving to be as relevant and popular today as they have ever been, and continuing to be bestsellers as far afield as Australia, Canada, Indonesia and South Africa, as well as in the UK.

© Jeremy and Peter Bond