Ex-pupils of Haggerston Girls’ School told they can’t plant memorial to former teacher – as ‘no one there remembers her’

Iris Benson.

Iris Benson. - Credit: Archant

A group of friends were told by their old school they couldn’t plant a memorial to their favouirte teacher – because no one there knows who she is.

Jacqui Jenkins and her classmates from Haggerston Girls’ School wanted to plant a sapling in the grounds to honour their former head of year Iris Benson.

“I run a Facebook group for ex-pupils and the majority of girls remember a warm compassionate woman who was very strict but fair,” said Jacqui. “She was an extremely calming and helpful influence to me during a difficult childhood. She is also the person responsible for me being able to touch type and have a logical understanding of how an office worked in the early ’80s. Quite a few women have heartwarming stories and memories of how she touched their lives.”

All that warmth and good will could not convince the school’s current regime, however. In an email to the group, a staff member at what is now Haggerston School wrote: “Though the thought is great, we are afraid we cannot accommodate your request. No one in the existing school community remembers Mrs Benson and there is no way of verifying this. We have asked staff and the local authority and I am afraid no one remembers who she is and no one can check old records because they would have been destroyed.”

Jacqui, of Hoxton, said: “It’s ridiculous. They say no one in the school remembers her. Well, we might not be part of the school community anymore but the school is part of our community.”

Haggerston head Ciara Emmerson told the Gazette although the school was proud Mrs Benson had a profound effect on the students, current staff and pupils do not remember her – and the school can’t honour everyone.

She said: “Across the history of this school there have been many inspiring teachers, students and staff who have worked towards the betterment of our community. We have a number of memorial plaques and benches marking the memory of recent staff and students who have sadly passed away and we are conscious it is not possible to pay tribute to all who have contributed to the school. Also, as the school is not open to the public, we feel a location where former students or colleagues can freely visit would be more suitable.”

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The group hopes the council approve a memorial in a park.