Special school head was an ‘inspiration’

Margaret Stirling, headteacher at Bennerley Fields, has died from cancer
Margaret Stirling, headteacher at Bennerley Fields, has died from cancer

A HEADTEACHER, who kept running a Cotmanhay special school until just a few days before her death from cancer, has been praised as ‘an inspiration’.

Even from her hospital bed, grandmother Margaret Stirling phoned staff to discuss some interviews she wanted to conduct.

Days later the 63-year-old, who had spent a decade as head of Bennerley Fields Specialist Speech and Language College, died of breast cancer in Nottingham City Hospital.

Head of governors Cllr Glennice Birkin said: “She was a wonderful woman, a very brave woman who was committed to her children.”

“She was an inspiration, I have never met another woman like her. We knew she was ill but she never let it get her down,” added Mrs Birkin, a member of Erewash borough and Derbyshire county council.

The school has 76 pupils who have learning problems. Some are autistic and many have trouble with speech and communication.

Mrs Stirling’s husband Bill, 71, said: “She loved it there. I think she would still have been going there at the age of 100 if she could.

“She liked the children and developing the school to a high standard. She was happy to be achieving success for the children and was supported by a really good team.”

A talented artist, Mrs Stirling spent much of her teaching career helping maladjusted children. She worked for the Barnardo’s charity as well as in schools.

Mrs Stirling became ill in 2008 and was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had chemotherapy but the illness returned about nine months ago and was found to have spread.

She took part in trials of new drugs but died in the hospital on Saturday. Her funeral will be at Bramcote Crematorium on June 10 at 12.30pm.

Mr Stirling, a retired IT expert, said: “She was very matter of fact about her illness in the last few months. I don’t know how she managed to get down to the school – she was often tired and sleepy and in a hell of a lot of discomfort.

“We had planned a holiday in the next few days, going to North Wales where we had our wedding reception. It would have been our last holiday but it was not to be. The family will miss her.”

The couple lived on Milton Road, Cotmanhay, near the school. They have two daughters Morag, 39, and Elinor, 38, who is expecting her first child shortly.

Morag’s two children Fauna, five, and two-year-old Jove visited their grandmother in hospital shortly before she died.