Margaret Thatcher dies: A nation remembers

Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 8 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher, who died of a stroke this morning, was arguably Britain’s most divisive post-war prime minister, and her legacy still looms large in UK politics.

Dubbed “The Iron Lady” for her forthright and decisive leadership style, she won three elections for the Conservative Party and spent 11 years at 10 Downing Street, from 1979 to 1990.

During her time as prime minister she was admired by some for her economic policies, pro-privatisation policies and anti-union stance, and hated by others who despised her tax-cutting, pro-private enterprise approach.

During her time in office, Thatcher’s economic policies were directly blamed for a boom in unemployment and a widening of the gap between rich and poor.

She was also famous for her uncompromising leadership during the Falklands War and for refusing to back down during the 1984 miners’ strike.

She also, notoriously, privatised state industries such as British Gas and presided over the “right to buy” scheme, encouraging people to buy their council houses.

Her downfall in 1990 came after her introduction of the poll tax, a flat-rate tax regarded as highly unfair, which prompted widespread riots.

Despite her formidable achievements in office, in schools Thatcher was probably best known for her actions as education secretary, a position to which she was promoted in 1970.

The mother-of-two was dubbed “the Milk Snatcher” after she oversaw the abolition of free school milk for 7- to 11-year-olds.

Debate continues over whether Thatcher can be considered a feminist icon, because she did not specifically help other women or acknowledge how feminism had helped her.

However, others argue that she was important as she made the idea of a woman being powerful and successful seem normal.

In her later years, Thatcher, a grocer’s daughter from Grantham, Lincolnshire, was revered by some on the Right, including the current prime minister, David Cameron.

Thousands are expected to attend her funeral at St Paul’s Cathedral in London. While some will be mourning wholeheartedly, there will undoubtedly be cheers from some of her bitterest enemies.


  • How much do you know about Margaret Thatcher? What kind of an impression do you have of her?
  • How accurate do you think the assumptions we make about people in public office are?
  • What is a stereotype and how far can we trust them?
  • Margaret Thatcher was the UK's first female Prime Minister. What impact might this have had on the role of women in the workplace?
  • What do we expect a leader to look like and what qualities should they have?

Resources for you

Margaret Thatcher: the greatest Prime Minister?

  • Judge the success of Britain’s first female PM with this PowerPoint presentation.

The 1979 General Election

  • Use this lesson to discover how Margaret Thatcher came to power.

The downfall of Thatcher

  • Get your pupils to learn about the reasons behind Baroness Thatcher’s resignation.

Successes and failures of Thatcher

  • Get students to think synoptically about the successes and failures of Margaret Thatcher's policies.

The changing role of women

  • Discover where Margaret Thatcher fits in to the evolvement of women’s rights with this timeline activity.

Further news resources

First News front page

  • Help your pupils understand the features of the front page of a newspaper.

Write all about it

  • Get students creating their own news report with this step-by-step guide.

What is the News?

  • A sociological and media perspective on what makes an event 'newsworthy'.

On the box

  • Help pupils to write their own TV news broadcast with this handy PowerPoint.

Structuring stories

  • A scheme of work to help students structure news stories.

In the news this week

News Quiz 2013: Spring Term, Put your students' news knowledge to the test!

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Ten years ago, armed forces from the US, Great Britain, Australia, Poland and other nations invaded Iraq, then ruled by dictator Saddam Hussein.

In the news archive index