From bottom set to Dame: the rise and rise of a super head

18th June 2010 at 01:00
She overcame teachers' negative perceptions of her Pakistani heritage to thrive in her career - and be rewarded with top honour

When Naila Zaffar arrived in Bradford at the age of 12, she was immediately put into the bottom set at Fairfax secondary.

Her Pakistani heritage severely threatened her potential to succeed at school because, she says, teachers made assumptions about pupils because of their backgrounds.

But now, more than three decades later, the head can afford to look back at the injustices with a smile - she has, after all, just been made a Dame in the Queen's Birthday Honours. It is, without question, a triumph of hope against expectation.

Dame Naila was born in Kenya, but at the age of eight her parents moved back to their parents' home country of Pakistan in search of a better future for their children. "We spent four years in Lahore," said Dame Naila, who now runs two schools in Bradford, "but we didn't settle, so my father decided we should come to England.

"In the 1970s, if you were from Pakistan you were put in the bottom set. I did speak English, but didn't understand the accent.

"My mother came to the school and said `under what criteria did you put my children in the bottom set? I want you to give them a test'. So they gave us a test and the next day I was moved to the top set."

Dame Naila is one of five children who all gained degrees. When it came to Dame Naila's turn, her father had to stand up to criticism from the community for sending his daughter to a teacher training college away from home.

"He told them he had trust in me. I got married after my first year, and he made my father-in-law promise that I could continue my studies."

After college, Dame Naila had two daughters, and then got her first job at Newby first school, moving to Atlas first school a year later. She did postgraduate work at Bradford College teaching PGCE students, but missed contact with children and went to Feversham first as a deputy head before becoming head at Copthorne first, now Copthorne primary, in 1992.

Copthorne is an outstanding school, with inspectors praising its "strong team spirit where everyone's contribution is valued".

For the past year Dame Naila, who is also an Ofsted inspector and served on the ruling body of the General Teaching Council for England (GTC), has also been working as executive head at Lapage primary in the city. "Education Bradford asked if I could manage Lapage," she said. "I said yes because I was brought up in that area."

With inspections to do and two schools to oversee, as well as interviews with journalists following her award, Dame Naila has not had a lot of time on her hands. But she has managed to celebrate the honour with a meal at home with her family: her mother, husband, daughters - both of whom are teachers - and three grandchildren.

She said: "My dad gave up a good job in Kenya to work on the buses here, because his passion was for us to have an education. He died two years ago, but this honour is really for him."

QUEEN'S BIRTHDAY HONOURS: EDUCATION'S FINEST

DBE
Naila Zaffar
Head, Copthorne primary, Bradford. For services to local and national education

CB
Lesley Longstone
Director-general, young people, Department for Education

CBE
Elizabeth Burnley
Chief guide, Girlguiding UK. For services to young people

Alan Clarke
Deputy director, curriculum and pupil wellbeing, schools directorate, DfE

Peter Collins
Chief executive, Salford Foundation Charity. For services to young people

David Gregory
Head, Fosse Way community special school, Bath. For services to special needs education

Pru Leith
Lately chair, School Food Trust

Jo Shuter
Head, Quintin Kynaston community school, City of Westminster, London. For services to local and national education

Neil Suggett
Head, Hayes Park School, Hillingdon, London. For services to education

Helen Tait
Head, Sandgate primary and Folkestone Academy, Kent. For services to education

FULL LIST OF EDUCATION OBEs amp; MBEs

DBENailaZaffarHeadteacher, Copthorne Primary School, Bradford. For services to local and national education
CBLesleyLongstoneDirector-General, Young People, Department for Education
CBEElizabethBurnleyChief Guide, Girlguiding UK. For services to young people
AlanClarkeDeputy Director, Curriculum amp; Pupil Wellbeing, Schools Directorate, Department for Education
PeterCollinsChief Executive, Salford Foundation Charity. For services to young people
DavidGregoryHeadteacher, Fosse Way Community Special School, Bath. For services to special needs education
PrudenceLeithLately Chair, School Food Trust
JoShuterHeadteacher, Quintin Kynaston Community School, City of Westminster, London. For services to local and national education
NeilSuggettHeadteacher, Hayes Park School, Hillingdon, London. For services to education
HelenTaitHeadteacher, Sandgate Primary School and Folkstone Academy, Kent. For services to education in Kent
OBEVivienBaileyLately Her Majesty's Inspector, Ofsted
MarkBlundellChief Executive, Salmon Youth Centre, Bermondsey, London. For services to young people
JenniferBoothmanLately Headteacher, Pennington CE Primary School, Pennington, Cumbria. For services to education
KathrynBroadhurstHeadteacher, Green Lane Infants School, Leicester. For services to education
ThomasCanningHeadteacher, Tollgate Primary School, Newham, London. For services to local and national education
LauraColettiManager, Violet Melchett Sure Start Children's Centre, Kensington, London. For services to children and families
AngelaDarnellHeadteacher, Egglescliffe High School, Stockton-on-Tees. For services to education
MargaretEvaHeadteacher, Bourne Community College, West Sussex. For services to education
TracyJacksonManager, The Crescent Children's Centre, Meir, Stoke on Trent. For services to children and families
LynneJamesManager, Hartcliffe Sure Start Children's Centre, Bristol. For services to children and families
DilysJonesLately Headteacher, Lypiatt Primary School and Early Years Centre, Wiltshire. For services to education
JeanJonesHeadteacher, Grace Owen Nursery School, Sheffield. For services to Early Years Education
SianRees-JonesHeadteacher, Bognor Regis Sure Start Children's Centre, West Sussex. For services to Early Years education
RogerLegatePrincipal and Head of Visual Impairment Service, Linden Lodge School, Wandsworth, London. For services to special needs education
CatherineMyersExecutive Headteacher, Bishop Challoner Catholic Collegiate Schools, Tower Hamlets, London. For services to education
AngelaO'ConnorHeadteacher, Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School, Hastings. For services to education
HonorRhodesDirector of Strategic Development, Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships
InderjitSandhuHeadteacher, Launde Primary School, Leicestershire. For services to education
AngelaSibsonChief Executive, National Academy of Parenting Practitioners. For services to children and families
ChristopherStevensLately Head of Inclusion Policy, British Educational and Communications Technology Agency. For services to special needs education
ElizabethTaylorPublic Health Manager, Southampton City Primary Care Trust. For services to children and families
FionaWheelerTeam Leader, Early Years Parenting and Promoting Learning Team, Department for Education
MBEChristopherBarrowsChair of Governors, Coombes Church of England Primary School, Wokingham, Berkshire. For voluntary service to education
AlanBernsteinFor services to young people in Kent
FrancisBetteridgeFor services to the voluntary sector in Sandwell, West Midlands
DavidBraddockGovernor, Ferndown Upper School, Dorset. For voluntary service to education
LorraineBrettFoster carer, Lancashire. For services to children and families
RalphBrettFoster carer, Lancashire. For services to children and families
DonaldCharltonFor voluntary service to the Scouts in the North East
PamelaClarkeFor services to the community in West Yorkshire
TerenceClarkeAssistant Headteacher and Arts Coordinator, Langley School, Solihull. For services to education
PaulineCockerLately Chair of the Corporation, Birkenhead Sixth Form College, Wirral. For voluntary service to education
SimonCookeGovernor, Newport Free Grammar School, Essex
MaryCrookFor services to young people in Cornwall
ShirleyDyerCaretaker, College Park Infant School, Portsmouth. For services to education
MarieErwoodAssistant Headteacher, Stewards School, Harlow, Essex. For services to education
CarolFosterICT Teacher, Lakeside School, Chandlers Ford, Hampshire. For services to special needs education
DianaFreemanFor services to education in Hertfordshire
HalinaGammieFor services to study support and Playing for Success
AndrewGibsonFor services to young people in Scotswood, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
AngelaGrandfieldLately PE Teacher and Pastoral Manager, Shire Oak School, Walsall. For services to education
ChristineGubbinsFoster Carer, Hampshire. For services to children and families
CatherineHegartyNursery Nurse, Knotty Ash Primary School, Liverpool. For services to special needs education
JudithIsh-HorowiczHeadteacher, Synagogue Religion School, Wandsworth, London. For services to Early Years education
MarciaHutchinsonDirector, Primary Colours Ltd, Huddersfield. For services to cultural diversity
DawnJacksonFor services to young people in Norwich
SuzanneKitchingManager, Families First Service, Middlesbrough. For services to children and families
ChristopherLeeFor services to young people in Romford, Essex
DavidLewisChairman of Governors, Whitefield School, Barnet, London. For services to education
PatriciaLewisYouth Leader, Banstead Youth Centre, Surrey. For services to young people
DavidListerFor voluntary service to young people
CatherineMarshallAssistant Headteacher, Wyvern School, Ashford, Kent. For services to special needs education
JanetMartinFor services to the Examinations Officer Association
DavidMauriceChair of Governors, Kenmore Park First School amp; Kenmore Park Middle School, Harrow, London. For voluntary service to education
MaryMcCarthyFor voluntary service to Charlie's Angels' Youth Fundraising Group, Eton Wick, Berkshire
DavidMcGuiganManager, Longbenton Youth Project, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. For services to young people
EdwinMendayGovernor, Longford Community School, Hounslow, London. For voluntary service to education
EricMilburnFor voluntary service to young people
StephenMitchellAssistant Headteacher, Shelthorpe Community Primary School, Loughborough. For services to education
PamelaNodenFoster carer, Bradford. For services to children and families
RobertNodenFoster carer, Bradford. For services to children and families
GeorgeOzenbrookAccommodation Officer, Facilities Management, Department for Education
BrianPeacockLately Headteacher, Sunnyhurst Primary Pupil Referral Unit, Blackburn with Darwen. For services to education
BenjaminPerlFor services to Jewish education in London Borough of Barnet
MargaretPostgateFor voluntary service to Girlguiding in Sedgefield, County Durham
BridgetRedmondLately Caretaker, Mount St Mary's High School, Leeds. For voluntary service to education
BerylRichesFor services to Selwyn Primary School, the London Borough of Newham
MarjorieSealFor voluntary service to Girlguiding in Kent
RoySinarFor services to young people in the West Midlands
Margaret AnnSouthrenDeputy Headteacher, Durham Trinity School, Durham. For services to special needs education
MichaelStevensChair of Governors, Oakwood Park Grammar School, Maidstone, Kent. For voluntary service to education
DeliaSykesMathematics Teacher, King Edward VI School, Morpeth, Northumberland. For services to education
DavidTaitFor voluntary services to the NSPCC
GlendaTaylorLately Governor, De Aston School, Market Rasen, Lincolnshire. For services to education
JohnTillettChair of Governors, Colchester Royal Grammar School, Essex. For voluntary service to education
BarbaraWestcottFor voluntary service to the Scouts in North East London
BrendaWhitmoreDeputy Head, Hillfields Children's Centre, Coventry. For services to children and families

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