Top honour for couple who taught in Dewsbury schools

Kathleen and Geoffrey Smith
Kathleen and Geoffrey Smith

A couple who spent decades inspiring and helping Dewsbury children have been recognised for their dedication to teaching.

Geoffrey and Kathleen Smith, of Grange Moor, have been awarded honourary degrees from York St John University for their longevity of service to the profession.

“I was surprised to receive it,” said Mrs Smith. “I’m very happy and very proud. I feel very important!”

The couple, who are 92 and 94, met at St John’s C of E School in Dewsbury where Mrs Smith was teaching and Mr Smith was observing her lesson.

They married in 1950 and went on to have seven children. Mr Smith had several posts in Dewsbury including at Thornhill C of E School, Wheelwright Grammar School, Savile Town Junior School and Chickenley Middle School, where he was head teacher.

As head at Chickenley Middle School, he fought for extra staff, more classrooms and better resources for children with additional needs. He also started the first youth club in the area in a bid to engage with parents and pupils. The club was a success and graffiti and vandalism in the area decreased.

His daughter Amanda Sowerby said: “He had a real community focus. They both have all sorts of stories to tell.

“We’re chuffed to bits that they have been given these honourary degrees.”

Mrs Smith worked at various Dewsbury schools as a supply teacher before joining Mr Smith for 10 years at Chickenley Middle School.

She was given commendations from Ofsted for becoming the first teacher in the Kirklees area to learn and deliver French to primary school children.

The couple are well known in Dewsbury, having taught several generations of some families, and still have former pupils visit them at their home.

The teaching gene has certainly been passed on, with four of their seven children trained in teaching.

Mr and Mrs Smith plan to celebrate their degrees and their upcoming 69th wedding anniversary with a family party with their 14 grandchildre and five great grandchildren next month.