About Ann


Ann Dodgson was an inspirational languages teacher who had passion for teaching French in particular. Ann began her teaching career at Longsands School, St Neots, Cambridgeshire, before moving on to Notley High School in Braintree, Essex.  However, in 1989, Ann moved to Saffron Walden County High School, which is where she taught until 2 months before her death in 2011. Ann was born in Chirk, North Wales, but her family moved to Welwyn Garden City when Ann was one year of age.

She studied at the University of Manchester and trained to be a teacher at Homerton College, University of Cambridge.

She settled in Saffron Walden where she developed her career to the point at which she was an Advanced Skills Teacher and a tutor on the Homerton College PGCE programme.  She was a member of the Saffron Walden United Nations Association as a demonstration of her commitment to the work of the United Nations.

‘En hommage à la mémoire d’ Ann’

 'A Tribute to the Memory of Ann’


Ann's career

Ann studied French and Spanish at the University of Manchester gaining a BA (Honours) degree. She undertook her teacher training as a PGCE student at Homerton College, University of Cambridge.

Her first teaching post was at Longsands in St. Neots before moving to Notley High School in Braintree. She met David Barrs in 1983. They married in Welwyn Garden City in 1987. Ann joined the Saffron Walden County High School in January 1989. She became Professional Tutor in 2004 and an Advanced Skills Teacher in 2006. As an AST she worked in schools throughout Essex and also became part of the team at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge.


Ann and France

Ann first visited France in 1975 as part of a French exchange organised by her school, Stanborough, Welwyn Garden City. Her exchange partner was Martine Gougam. They became lifelong friends

Martine wrote “Ann was such a good French teacher because she spent plenty of time in France, she lived with French people, she always wanted to discover French habits, taste French food; she nearly thought like a French girl; when she was in France, she was not an English girl. I never heard her criticise French habits, and never compared French and English people. She always wanted to learn French” .

In 1979 she was back in France as an English Language assistant. After her death, her husband, David Barrs, found the beginnings of a diary amongst her personal papers;

Monday 24th September 1979

I don’t really know how to begin this diary. I’m never very articulate at the best of times, but when it comes to writing about myself my brain seems to cut off. For there is that within me, as with every living soul, which shies away from being revealed or even recognised.

I know myself better than I know anything else; and yet how little I know about the depths of my mind if I cannot bring myself to write down what I feel. Is it the fear of someone else treading my thoughts, and thus knowing me, that I dread, or is it rather the fear of recognising in black and white all my faults and weaknesses.

I sometimes think that there is something supremely arrogant in writing about oneself. And yet if I am honest I feel that I must write down what I think, because I have some value. Surely the most desperate of men is he who feels that he is of no worth.

If I were to die tomorrow …. What then? What would be left of me – a few memories in the hearts of those who are dearest to me; but soon any feeling would fade. I often think that memories of people you love are like a cut flower. While the flower lives you can love it and admire it; once cut it lives on for a short while and then it fades. You can press the petals and keep them but the smell and shape and sap have gone; only the dried, brittle fragments remain.

I, in my arrogance, want more than that for myself. I want people to know that I lived, and experienced, many things, ordinary things maybe, but I still feel them. I want people to know that although insignificant, I am a living being – capable of experiencing pain and sorrow as well as joy and delight. I am not just a name, an automaton – I am extraordinary because in my ordinariness I am unique.

Oh Salavin, why do I not leave such sentences to you, who are so lucid and articulate:

‘End of Illusion

Sleep, sleep, poor man! Sleep, my friend, my unhappy brother. Make your way into the unknown, companion of my youth and of my ripe years. You have suffered enough through me and also because of me. You have, for so many years, suffered enough in me. It is time that I gave you up, now that night has come. You will no longer walk beside me along the rough, rotting pavements of Mont Ste.-Genevieve (inc. accent). You will no longer waken me at night to torment me with your dreams. Is it possible? Is it possible? I am leaving you, brother, at the hour when, pushing through and beyond my dreams, I accept with calm despair the fact of being only what I am.

Georges Duhamel’

I know that I should have left such a passage till the end of this little book. But there it is. I have written it. That’s how I am , confused and struggling to know myself. As yet I see no end to this illusion of myself. I must try and read this book again, so that through ‘Salavin’, I may begin to grasp some idea of what I feel and do and why I am as I am, a part of Everyman and yet myself.

What wouldn’t I give to see as clearly as Duhamel the ultimate essence of man.

Tuesday 25th September 1979

Why did I have to be starting a new phase in my life to begin to write this journal? Because here in France every sight and sound and smell and touch is a new delight for me. I am detached from my old life and am at liberty to review my beliefs and attitudes. I can look with new eyes at myself, at my behaviour, my relationships with other people as well as at this new country.

No more diary entries were been found. Maybe Ann soon became so enchanted with France she had no time to reflect. Certainly, her ensuing years brought her close to the heart of France – its people, its culture and, of course, it language. Ann came to love all things French and loved sharing her enthusiasm and knowledge. France, ultimately, defined her. Her friendships, her family, her students and her work were touched and inspired by her passion for France.

In many ways , these brief passages provide the raison d’etre for the Ann Dodgson Foundation. It will provide opportunities for people to find themselves in France and to find France. To step back from their routines and reflect on where they are, to come closer to Salavin.

The Foundation will help and encourage other “Ann Dodgsons”!


Ann the teacher - reflections of colleagues

Ann mattered – she was a sculptress of young minds and a beacon of all that is right with teaching.

Ann was just remarkable. There are so many great people in teaching, but I haven’t come across anyone like Ann. She seemed to contain an inner, unbending steel with compassion, generosity, humour and sparkle. She was acutely perceptive and brave enough to say what she saw. I loved watching her “teaching in the corridor” along with all her other wise proverbs, which spring back to mind from time to time, and often in moments of need. It is not easy to change someone’s teaching practice, but Ann had that ability and it benefitted me, and the generation of teachers she guided. Beyond that she was great to be with. She was clearly part of a very dignified, impressive, talented and kind family.

Ann was the template I will always use to measure all my professional teacher mentors.

She taught French and German, brilliantly, and her students absolutely adored her, and she taught new teachers how to survive and thrive in the profession.

One time there was a careers fair in school, and Ann and I walked in on the talk about becoming a teacher… the message being delivered was cynical and jaded and Ann politely but firmly took control to tell the students that teaching was the most wonderful job that anyone could ever do.

By their fruits ye shall know them.

The life of one we love is never lost …..Its influence goes on through all the lives it ever touched.

What I loved about this trip was finding out more of her mischievous side. She told us of a student she had taken on a trip to France who had complained the whole time. When he now decided he had a sore throat, Ann told him she would happily take him to the chemists, but that in France they gave injections for sore throats up the bum. He was, she noted, miraculously cured.

You have been in my life for such a long time, always such a calm and joyful presence, so wise and so positive.

Wonderful woman, desperate loss..

Unfailingly astute, warm and modest.

To see Ann relate to others in all she undertook was to watch, listen and learn. Ann taught me it was never too late to listen and learn in the classroom.

I was in awe of the way she related to each student, she already had individual learning plans for each student long before we had to create them .

Ann’s passing is a huge loss to education as a whole .


Ann and the United Nations

Shortly after meeting David, the couple spent their first holiday in Geneva where David had secured a Freshwater Scholarship to help meet the costs of a week studying at the UN. David was a member of the United Nations Association, an organisation which Ann joined as well. Inspired by the trip, they were determined to make it possible for young people in particular, to visit the United Nations and be inspired by its vision and values. Over the coming years they organised eleven such tours enabling nearly 200 young people to see at first hand how the UN works. The last one was in 2003 to Geneva before the grip of a young family took hold!

Following Ann’s death and with the support of the school where he is co-headteacher (the Anglo European School in Essex), David reinstated the tours. They represent a unique opportunity for succeeding generations of young people to develop a greater understanding of the UN and gain a sense of what it can do, what it can’t do and its potential.

This passion for the UN is reflected in the aims of the Foundation whereby it can assist young people in studying at the United Nations in Geneva.