Making a song and dance with young pays off for teachers

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TWO long-established North Yorkshire music and dance teachers have been awarded MBEs for promoting the arts to thousands of youngsters across the county.

Music teacher Mary Webster, 82, of Kirkby Overblow, near Harrogate, has been heralded for services to music and education in a career which started in 1950.

Barbara Benson-Smith, proprietor of the Benson Stage Academy which has been established in Whitby for more than 50 years, has been recognised for services to dance and to charity.

Mrs Webster, a grandmother-of-six, started her teaching career at Coldcotes School in Gipton, Leeds.

She moved on to St Peter’s School in Harrogate and then to All Saints Church of England Primary School in Kirkby Overblow where she still takes recorder classes despite officially retiring in 1989.

Mrs Webster has also been secretary of the Harrogate Competitive Festival for Music Speech and Drama since 1995, promoting the historic competition which was launched in 1936.

It will be her third time in the presence of the Royal Family in London after two previous visits to Buckingham Palace with some of the first girls to ever take up the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme.

“It is an amazing surprise and I am a bit embarrassed really,” said Mrs Webster, who is mother to three sons.

“Teaching is the most rewarding job in the world, I have never thought about doing anything else.”

She added: “I have been lucky enough to work with so many different generations, I cannot go into Harrogate without somebody saying “hello Mrs Webster” to me.

“Some of my former pupils have gone on to do great things such as playing in the national orchestra in London.”