Dorothy Temple obituary

Other lives: Teacher of English and public speaking in a range of schools in Essex

My mother, Dorothy Temple, who has died aged 84, was successively head of the English department at Billericay school and academic deputy head at the Ursuline school in Brentwood, Essex.

Early in her career she taught in selective Catholic girls’ convent schools, the environment in which she herself had been educated. Billericay school, on the other hand, was a large, mixed-sex, mixed-ability, secular comprehensive. It had only recently been upgraded from secondary-modern status, and was settling down with some difficulty to the resulting changes.

Dorothy was a superb teacher as well as a gifted manager of people and a highly proficient administrator. She believed passionately in the comprehensive school ideal. Under her the English department at Billericay, replete with talented teachers, thrived. Not a single pupil failed their English A-level during her tenure, a remarkable achievement.

She also taught public speaking at Billericay, an extracurricular activity that gave confidence and invaluable life skills to the pupils, mainly girls, who represented the school in competitions both in the county and beyond. Like other senior female teachers at the school, Dorothy was a role model for them.

In the late 1970s, having obtained the necessary funding, she persuaded the school to take on a poet-in-residence. Adrian Mitchell was chosen and the scheme was such a success that it was extended for another year. Poets such as Ted Hughes, Roger McGough and Brian Patten gave readings. It was an exciting time and left an enduring legacy in that part of Essex.

Dorothy was born in Manchester, to Freda (nee Doyle), a draughtswoman, and Harold Thompson, a printer. She was educated at the Hollies convent school in south Manchester and won a scholarship to Manchester University, where she read English. In 1964 she married John Temple, whom she had met over a copy of Tribune at Victoria station in London.

In 1984, after more than a decade at Billericay, Dorothy moved to the Ursuline school, a girls’ comprehensive. There she formed a formidable trio along with the headteacher, Eve Ranzetta, and pastoral co-deputy, Margaret Mary Hughes.

After leaving the Ursuline in 1993 she enjoyed an active retirement in Oxford, working on her allotment, travelling and refurbishing the house. Dorothy was always dignified, a devoted Catholic and a socialist. She had great humility and compassion.

She is survived by John and by their children – my twin sister, Jane, and me.

Richard Temple

The GuardianTramp

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