My mother-in-law, Anne Sanderson, who has died aged 85, was an educationist in South Yorkshire and beyond who fought fiercely for the rights of all children, especially those from underprivileged backgrounds, to enjoy top-class schooling.
Anne had a successful career in the late 1970s as a deputy head and headteacher at schools in Sheffield. She was a senior lecturer in primary education at Sheffield Polytechnic (now Sheffield Hallam University) from 1984 to 1988, and wrote several well-received books about early years teaching, including a series called Models for Writing (with Chris Buckton), before becoming senior adviser to Barnsley schools, specialising in language development and English. Later, she was invited to help improve teaching standards in Saudi Arabia, Hungary and Hong Kong.
As a long-serving Ofsted inspector she also trained others to become inspectors, but her overriding purpose was to help every child achieve his or her potential. Once, she was asked to visit a pupil who had become electively mute. While Anne waited to talk to the teacher she was drawn to a girl at an easel, painting. The pair had a happy, animated conversation. Then, when the teacher was free, Anne asked her to point out the electively mute child. It was the same girl.
Anne’s belief in the importance of education was forged early. She was born in Barnsley, the elder daughter of Colin Wildsmith and Amelia (nee Atkinson). Her mother died when she was three and her sister Janet one. Their father, a miner, felt unable to raise them so they were brought up in the village of Ward Green by their mother’s sister, Auntie Dinah, sleeping three to a bed.
Anne passed her 11-plus exam, but the school did not let the family know the result, assuming that they would not be able to afford the uniform, and did not want to embarrass them. Auntie Dinah was furious. She took extra work cleaning Barnsley bus station’s toilets, partly to ensure that Anne could go to grammar school at Barnsley girls’ high school and fulfil her obvious potential. Anne went on to take a higher education certificate at Sheffield University (1970), a BA in education, language development and psychology at the Open University (1977) and an MA in English language and linguistics at Sheffield University (1983).
Anne met Bob at a steelworks dance in Chapeltown. They were married in 1958 and remained vigorous rock’n’roll jive dancers for the rest of their marriage.
Bob survives her, as do Janet, her daughters, Jackie and (my wife) Jane, and her grandchildren.
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