‘En hommage à la mémoire d’ Ann’

 A Tribute to the memory of Ann.

Ann Dodgson was born in Chirk, North Wales on 29 May 1959. She and her sister, Carol, were brought up by her mother, Joan, in Welwyn Garden City. Her father had died in 1970 when Ann was 11.   Ann died in 2011.

Ann was an inspirational languages teacher who had a passion for teaching French.  She began her teaching career at Longsands School, St Neots, Cambridgeshire, before moving on to Notley High School in Braintree, Essex and then to Saffron Walden County High School.

The Times Educational Supplement (TES) obituary referred to students at the Saffron Walden County High School in Essex where she taught, who spoke of “the Dodgson effect”. Succeeding generations of them walked into Ann’s French lessons indifferent to her subject and walked out genuine and committed Francophiles.

The obituary continues ….

Ann first visited France at the age of 16 and discovered a passion for its language and culture that was to last a lifetime. She went on to study French and Spanish at the University of Manchester, followed by a PGCE at Homerton College, Cambridge. After taking posts in Cambridge and Essex schools, she moved to Saffron Walden County High in 1989. Her enthusiasm for all things French was immediately apparent. She would talk about life in France, about the French countryside, French culture. “She seemed genuinely excited by the prospect of speaking French again,” one Year 10 pupil commented about an exchange trip with her. Ends of term or completed sections of the syllabus were rewarded with trays of home-baked madeleines. And, for A-level classes, there were “naughty days” when she and her students would bring in their pyjamas and sit on the floor, reading children’s books and eating French sweets

In 2002, she became an advanced skills teacher and, in 2006, was appointed as the school’s first professional tutor for trainees, working with the education faculty of the University of Cambridge. Although her headteacher at Saffron Walden refers to “an exceptionally exceptional teacher”, Ann was modest and often self-critical.

In 1987, she married David Barrs, also a teacher. They shared an active interest in the United Nations Association. 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 many such tours enabling over 200 young people to see at first hand how the UN works.

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.

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. She kept a personal journal.  It opened with this;

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.”

Her ensuing years brought her close to the heart of France – its people, its culture and, of course, it’s 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, this brief diary passage provides 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.

At the time of her death, colleagues reflected on the person she was and what she meant to them;

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.”

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”

November 2023


‘En hommage à la mémoire d’ Ann’

 ‘A Tribute to the Memory of Ann’