Tes School Awards 2020: Services to education

Britain's first female black headteacher, Yvonne Conolly, is the winner of this year’s special award
13th November 2020, 8:28pm

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Tes School Awards 2020: Services to education

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/tes-school-awards-2020-services-education
Tes Awards

The winner of this special award is Yvonne Conolly, the UK's first female black headteacher.

Ms Conolly couldn't be a more worthy recipient of this award and has forged a path - despite many early obstacles - which has empowered generations to follow.

When she started in the role as headteacher of a North London primary in the late 1960s, Ms Conolly received so many racist threats that she needed a bodyguard to go with her to school.

But Ms Conolly had the courage to stand firm. More than 50 years later, she told Tes: "I think it is an important achievement which has opened doors for more women like me."

Ms Conolly had undertaken three years of teacher training in Jamaica prior to arriving in Britain in 1963 as part of the Windrush generation, and she originally intended to stay for only three years.

As headteacher of Ring Cross Primary in Holloway, north London, she showed pupils that "we are all the same but different" by inviting her dentist, who was black, into school to give a talk.

"The children all sat there and I could see everybody's mouth was open. They couldn't believe that a dentist was black," she said.

Ms Conolly later became a member of the multi-ethnic inspectorate created by the Inner London Education Authority in 1978, in which, she says, "we had to start from the beginning with the whole business of framing practices and policies for our schools, including looking at racism and anti-racism".

Among her other roles, she was an Ofsted inspector and was chair of the Caribbean Teachers' Association.

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