Betty Martin obituary

Other lives: Teacher who ended her career in charge of the home and hospital tuition service of the Inner London Education Authority

My mother, Betty Martin, who has died aged 87, was a teacher who ended her career in charge of the home and hospital tuition service of the Inner London Education Authority (Ilea). She led its transformation into a model of innovative support for some of the capital's most challenging children, and was its last head before the Thatcher government abolished Ilea in 1990.

Born Elizabeth Hurley in Cork, and brought up there by an aunt after the early deaths of her parents, Betty had older half-siblings but was in effect the only child of a lone parent. She excelled at St Angela's college, in Blackrock, and at piano and Irish dancing, and helped in her aunt's corner shop. Exceptionally for a woman at that time, Betty not only won a place at University College, Cork, but also graduated, in 1944, with first-class honours in history, and was invited to take master's degrees both there and at Trinity College Dublin.

But love intervened – which she never for a moment regretted – and she married a fellow student, Alfred "Dee" Martin. By 1954, they had five sons and had settled in the house in Lewisham, south London, that remained Betty's home for the rest of her life.

She and Dee became teachers and were active members of the National Union of Teachers. Betty moved into special education and progressed to become the deputy head of Nansen school for the partially sighted, in south-east London, before being appointed to lead what was then a somewhat haphazard Ilea service for children too sick, frightened, disruptive or pregnant to go to school.

Over a decade of conflict between the Conservative government and the Labour-led Ilea, she defied cuts and threats of closure to professionalise the service. Through 10 dedicated centres in London boroughs, around 2,000 children a year were able to gain qualifications. One colleague remembers her as "a fantastic manager, who enabled you to do things you didn't know you could do".

After Dee's death in 1996 was quickly followed by that of her son Niall, Betty's life demanded the abundant stoical resilience she displayed to the end. She is survived by her sons Declan, Conrad, Finbarr and myself, 12 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

Brendan Martin

The GuardianTramp

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