Miss Harris helped girls fulfil their potential

ENCOURAGED ... former Girls' Grammar School head Gillian Harris, who has died.
ENCOURAGED ... former Girls' Grammar School head Gillian Harris, who has died.

HER former pupils - myself included - learn with sadness this week of the death of Gillian Harris, former headmistress of South Shields Girls’ Grammar School.

Miss Harris, who was just a few weeks from her 93rd birthday, died in Hampshire where she had lived for many years, and where her funeral will take place, in Fareham, on Monday.

She was headteacher of the school from 1967 until her retirement from what was, by then, King George Comprehensive School in 1982.

She will be remembered for her encouragement of pupils to fulfil their potential, which was also reflected in her work, locally, for the volunteer organisation for girls and women, Soroptimists International.

She was also a gifted amateur artist - as well as a great lover of cats, whose accompaniment of her to school probably leave her former students with some of their most affectionate memories!

Miss Harris, who succeeded Dr Elsie Ramsden at the Grammar School, had previously been deputy head then acting head of Childwall Valley Girls’ High School, Liverpool.

A graduate of the Royal Holloway College, London, where she took a first class honours degree in 1943, she served first with the wartime MInistry of Production, then with the Board of Trade, as assistant principal.

She began her teaching career in Warwickshire in 1946, taking a post-graduate certificate and Diploma in Education.

From there she went to Birmingham, to the Kings Norton Grammar School, where she was head of the history department. She also taught in Shropshire and Sussex.

Before taking over at South Shields Girls’ Grammar School, Miss Harris had studied sixth-form curricula and careers; also comprehensive education which was to make inroads into South Shields, and ultimately South Tyneside, in the early 1970s.

From the Grammar School - established in 1936 in Victorian buildings at Westoe, one of which had been the old Boys’ High School - Miss Harris went on, at King George, to become head of the first purpose-built comprehensive school in the town.

Miss Harris leaves a sister, Rowena.