BY TOBY PORTER
One of Lewisham’s longest-serving headteachers has been made an MBE in The New Year’s Honours List for her services to Education and the Arts.
Elizabeth Booth (pictured right) retired from Dalmain School in Forest Hill in July. She had led the school for 18 years and worked there for 21 years, transforming it from an under-subscribed and unpopular primary school into a vibrant learning centre at the heart of its community.
Her notable achievements include the remodelling of a patch of wasteland to the side of the school into a football pitch, as well as the provision of free music lessons for disadvantaged children throughout the school.
Under her leadership Dalmain became well known for its collaborations with theatre groups, orchestras and dance professionals, to give the children a broad and balanced education.
The school, which serves one of the top 20 per cent most deprived areas in England, according to the Index of Multiple Deprivation, also pioneered a graduate trainee scheme that has allowed it to “grow its own teachers”, as a response to the teacher recruitment crisis.
She said: “I cannot express how thrilled I am to have received this truly unexpected award.
The transformation of Dalmain School into a popular and thriving centre for learning is the result of the hard work, energy and passion of so many people, so I feel that I am accepting it, not just for me, but also on behalf of all the exceptional teaching and support staff at Dalmain.
“In the course of my 18-year stint as Dalmain’s headteacher, I saw 11 education secretaries come and go. “Only too often, they have been more concerned with the furthering of political agendas than they have with improving Britain’s schools.
“At Dalmain, though, we have stood firm in the face of political pressure, providing an arts-based curriculum that reflects our belief that education is about more than just ticking boxes.
“This award is testament to Dalmain’s determination to give all of our children the best possible experience, whether they are at the school for one day, or for seven years.”
Jane Hogarth, chair of the school’s governors, said: “This is fantastic news. Elizabeth Booth is an outstanding example of a headteacher who went above and beyond her job description for many years to make the community that she served a better place for children to grow up and for us all to live.”
Ms Hogarth had said in a tweet on July 19: “Today marks the end of an era @dalmainschool as we bid farewell to our outstanding and inspirational head, Elizabeth Booth.
Thank you for everything you have done for the thousands of children and families in our community. We wish you a much deserved long and happy retirement.”