Kate Ford obituary

Other lives: English teacher and committed union activist

My sister, Kate Ford, who has died aged 61 of cancer, was an English teacher who taught for 36 years at Haggerston school, Hackney, in east London. A passionate union activist, she was the school rep for the National Education Union and a champion of comprehensive education.

Born in Northampton, Kate was the third child of Alan Ford, a journalist, and Joy (nee Curtis), a church warden and volunteer youth organiser. She grew up in a home full of talk about politics, religion and sport.

In 1969 the family moved to Surrey, where Kate attended Farnham girls’ grammar school. Always warm and enthusiastic, she made friends easily and loved reading and English literature.

When the family moved back to Northampton, Kate attended Weston Favell upper school and became head girl. She went on to Leicester Polytechnic (now De Montfort University) to study for a combined arts degree, focusing on English and politics.

There she met Dave Hughes, a history lecturer and co-founder of Workers Power, an offshoot of the International Socialists. He introduced Kate to Russian literature, classical music, opera and revolutionary socialism. They lived together until his death in 1991.

Kate trained as an English teacher at the Institute of Education, London, and went to work at Haggerston school, where she stayed for the rest of her career. She became the school’s head of English, and developed links with the Institute of Education and the Globe theatre. An inspirational teacher and colleague, she touched the lives of many hundreds of students and teachers.

She was a brilliant communicator, verbally and in her writing. Her views were clear and deeply felt. A lifelong socialist, she supported colleagues in her union activities and promoted the comprehensive principle.

Warm, generous and fun to be with, Kate was serious and committed to her work and her politics. Visiting her in London was always good fun. She knew the best restaurants and the quirkiest pubs, as well as the most interesting galleries, churches and museums.

In the last few years Kate was promoted to become a lead practitioner, which enabled her to share best educational practice across and beyond the school.

In 1995 Kate met John Grimshaw through her union work, and they were partners for 26 years. She is survived by John and by her three siblings, Robert, Richard and me.

Jill Ford

The GuardianTramp

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