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From Tiller Girl to educationist

Nicky Harrison, a former chair of the Council for Local Education Authorities and a popular national figure in education, has died, aged 71.

A Londoner by birth, Mrs Harrison left school with limited qualifications of her own. But she became a well-liked educationist from the early 1970s, when she fought against the banding and subsequent bussing of children to different schools in Haringey, north London.

Mrs Harrison went on to be elected to the council between 1971 and 1986 and served as chair of its education committee.

For the former London Palladium Tiller Girl, it was the first of numerous chairmanships in education that included the National Foundation for Educational Research from 1997 to 2004, and the national Burnham panel for primary and secondary management between 1984 and 1986.

From 1999 until shortly before her death, Mrs Harrison chaired the Teacher Support Network's helpline, which provides a free counselling and coaching service to more than 100,000 teachers a year.

Known as a shrewd political operator and for her sense of humour, Mrs Harrison also worked as a governor of the College of North East London in Tottenham. From 1997, she was chair of the Vale Development Trust, a charity supporting the integration of special needs and disabled children in Haringey.

Mrs Harrison was awarded a CBE in 1984 for commitment to education, and an honorary doctorate from Middlesex University in 2006.

Tony Lenney, a former chief education officer at Haringey Council, said: "There was something of the theatre about her when she took the chair, as she invariably did on all committees on which she sat.

"She was politically shrewd and tough, a stickler for proper procedure who knew the key issues to highlight. She was never dull."

Since then, the role of local authorities in delivering education has changed. Mr Lenney said: "People like Nicky Harrison represented the very best of what we no longer have."

She is survived by her children: Kate, John and Emma.

Nicky (Nicole) Harrison, born July 27, 1936; died March 13, 2008.

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