Education & Family

Inner city head teacher made a dame by Queen

Dame Sylvia with her pupils
Image caption Dame Sylvia Morris has worked in education for 40 years

The head teacher of an inner city London primary has been made a dame in the New Year's honours list.

Dame Sylvia Morris turned the Cathedral School of St Saviour and St Mary Overy in Southwark from failure to outstanding success in just five years.

England's communication champion Jean Gross picks up a CBE.

Former dinner lady Jeanette Orrey, who tipped off TV chef Jamie Oliver about the dire state of school food, is also recognised.

She is made an MBE for her role in the campaign to improve meals in England's schools.

Dame Sylvia, who retired after 40 years in education before Christmas and is now aged 60, said she was delighted with the recognition.

"I've clearly had an effect on children over many years. But I thought I was doing an ordinary job but I am really thrilled that people have recognised the work that I have done."

Of her school, she said: "It's hugely diverse. Seventy per cent of our intake are from minority ethnic groups. It has all the hallmarks of inner city life.

"The school is over 300 years old and was originally set up for the education of the poor of the parish and it still maintains that ethos today."

Three Rs help

She added: "When the British Council came to visit recently they said they had never seen such happy children".

Dame Sylvia joined the school in 1994 when, she said, it was "a shambles".

"Teaching standards were extremely low and morale was low, and the building was a tip. Within five years we had got it to the outstanding rating and we have sustained that to this day."

Image caption Jean Gross has devoted her career to improving life-chances of deprived children

She believes she is also being recognised for work outside the school, spreading educational excellence at home and abroad.

She is one of 15 heads, 10 principals and 13 governors, recommended for honours.

England's Communication Champion Jean Gross is also recognised with a CBE for services to education.

In recent years, she has worked to improve services for children with speech, language and communication needs, but has championed the needs of children who are socially disadvantaged or have special needs throughout her career.

Starting as a teacher, she went on to oversee the creation of the primary national strategy under previous Labour governments which was used in all England's schools to overcome barriers to underachievement.

She went on to develop the Every Child a Reader, Every Child a Writer and Every Child Count campaigns designed to pick up and help pupils struggling with the "Three Rs" catch up.

Mrs Gross, now 62, said: "To help those children that don't get a look in in life, that has been my life-long passion. And that's what I hope that I am being recognised for."

Mrs Orrey's campaigning on school meals began 11 years ago when she was working as a dinner lady at a school in Birmingham.

She and the head decided to opt out of the system and cook their own food, based on organic, locally produced quality ingredients.

"Jamie came to see the school and saw what we were doing and said it was what he wanted to do, only on a bigger scale," she said.

Mrs Orrey went on to jointly found the Food for Life charity in 2003 which got lottery funding to help schools, nurseries and hospitals to improve the quality of food they provide.

On her MBE, she said: "I feel very proud and privileged and also feel that as an ex-school cook, this is for all the catering staff and local authorities who have worked so hard to meet all the standards.

She now works as a school meals policy adviser for the Food for Life Partnership.

Professor Glynis Marie Breakwell, vice-chancellor of the University of Bath, has also been made a dame for services to higher education, as has Moira Gibb for services to social work.

Dame Moira was formerly chief executive, London Borough of Camden and chaired the Social Work Reform Board.

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