Anne Sanderson, my late mother-in-law, passed away at 85 years old, leaving behind a legacy as a passionate education advocate in and beyond South Yorkshire. Her advocacy for the rights of all children, particularly those from underprivileged backgrounds, to have access to top quality education was fueled by her desire for every child to achieve their full potential.
Anne’s career was filled with notable achievements, starting as deputy head and headteacher at several Sheffield schools in the late 1970s. Later, she became a renowned senior lecturer in primary education at Sheffield Polytechnic, authoring several outstanding books on early years teaching, including the well-received Models for Writing series, in conjunction with Chris Buckton. Her career ended as a senior adviser to Barnsley schools with a specialty in language development and English. Her expertise was also requested to improve teaching standards in Saudi Arabia, Hungary, and Hong Kong.
In addition to her professional achievements, Anne was also a long-serving Ofsted inspector, equipping many others to follow in her footsteps. She cared deeply about helping every child reach their full potential, which was evident in her efforts to connect with each child. I remember one instance where Anne visited a student who had become electively mute. While waiting to talk to the teacher, she noticed a girl painting at an easel and started an animated conversation with her. She later found out that the child she had been talking to was the electively mute student.
Anne’s passion for education sprouted from humble beginnings. She was born in Barnsley, the oldest of two sisters, to Colin Wildsmith and Amelia (nee Atkinson). Unfortunately, the sisters lost their mother while they were young children and their father, a miner, was unable to raise them. As a result, their mother’s sister, Auntie Dinah, who worked extra hours cleaning Barnsley bus station’s toilets, took them in and raised them with their other cousins.
Despite adversity, Anne passed her 11-plus exam, earning a spot in a prestigious grammar school. However, the school did not inform her family of her success, thinking that they couldn’t afford the uniform. Auntie Dinah was infuriated by this, and began cleaning even more toilets to help cover the cost. Eventually, Anne earned a higher education certificate at Sheffield University (1970), a BA in education, language development, and psychology at the Open University (1977), and an MA in English language and linguistics at Sheffield University (1983).
She met her husband, Bob, at a steelworks dance in Chapeltown, and they shared a love of rock’n’roll jive dancing throughout their marriage. Anne is survived by Bob, their two daughters, Jackie and my wife Jane, her sister Janet, as well as her grandchildren. Her memory lives on as a beacon of hope and inspiration to all those whose lives she touched with her unyielding passion for education and dedication to helping others.