John Cross, for over 60 years an influential figure in the field of planned environment therapy in therapeutic communities for children has died aged 85 at his home in Cheltenham. He retired from his role as Director of the Planned Environment Therapy Trust in 2012. Until the onset of his illness in the autumn of 2015, John continued to be involved in the daily life of PETT at Toddington in Gloucestershire.
In 1952, his early ambition to take up a place at Durham University and to become a politician faded on the completion of his National Service when the direction of his life was altered by a summer placement at Bodenham Manor School where David Wills was the Warden. John decided that what was going on at the school felt right and that shared experience in a therapeutic community would provide the pathway for his life. In the following decades John was engaged in the community life of Bodenham Manor School, Herefordshire, Ashley House Remand Home, Worksop, New Heys Reception Centre, Liverpool and New Barns School, Toddington.
At the same time as he was engaged as a member of the group of children and adults at New Barns John became a psychotherapist, served as a magistrate in the Juvenile Justice System, was the Chairman of the Youth and Family Courts and Vice Chairman of the Gloucestershire Probation Committee.
John maintained his relationships with those who had been with him and his colleagues at New Barns. Over the years he became a ‘best man’ at their weddings and a godparent at the christening of their children many times over.
John played an influential role in a number of other organisations. He was a founding member of the Association of Workers with Maladjusted Children (AWMC) which later became the Social, Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties Association (SEBDA) and for over 40 years served on its Council. Prior to his death was John was the only living founding member of PETT. He was a founding member of other groups too including the Charterhouse Group, Young Minds and the Child Care History Network.
Over his career John wrote and presented a number of influential papers about therapeutic communities and planned environment therapy and he co-authored the controversial 1979 Quaker publication Six Quakers Look at Crime and Punishment: A Study Paper.
John was a Quaker. He was a man modest about his achievements. For him achievement was the shared experience of a community. John is survived by his two sisters Sybil and Cynthia. He will be sorely missed and fondly remembered by so many of the people with whom he shared experience and a community life.
Here is the text of an interview with John from 2010 and this is the article he wrote for the goodenoughcaring Journal in 2012, Some tentative thoughts on the concept of planned environment therapy is at http://www.goodenoughcaring.com/the-journal/some-tentative-thoughts-on-the-concept-of-planned-environment-therapy/