Valerie Smith

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VALERIE Smith, who has died aged 67, taught maths in Leeds where she also played active roles as a Brownie leader and in the life of her church.

In 1945, although the war was nearing its end, along with other pregnant mothers in London, her mother was sent to have her baby at what she called “a barn of a place outside Tadcaster” otherwise known as Hazlewood Castle.

However, the birth was not straightforward and the delivery took place in Hyde Terrace Maternity Hospital, Leeds.

Then it was back to London, the only child of Annie and Albert Willis continuing to live with them in Sydenham, London until her marriage to Morris Smith.

She had met her future husband at Perry Rise Baptist Church in Forest Hill – she 11 and he 13 – but it was nine years before he asked her out, and two years after that they were married.

Much earlier she had been awarded a scholarship to Sydenham High School. Sporty and competitive, she played cricket but was particularly good at running, swimming and hockey.

With A-levels, she went to Bedford College, an all-girls college of London University, and now she took up badminton and gained an honours degree in mathematics.

Upon graduation – her work with the Brownies by now well established – she began her teaching career at the independent James Allens Girls’ School as a maths teacher, but marriage took her to York where her husband worked for British Rail.

She got a job at Derwent Secondary Modern School, but Mr Smith’s work entailed sporadic moves which affected her career and led to spells at comprehensives in Northallerton and Rosedale and Norwich – and in Norwich the couple became confirmed members of the Church of England.

Mrs Smith was involved with the Women’s Institute, and reached county level in that organisation’s competitive speech making where her subject was fairness in education.

The family’s last move, in 1986, was to Leeds, and they chose to live near a church – a Methodist one this time – which they knew had Guides and Scouts.

The church is in Roundhay and Mrs Smith was soon involved in its life. Among numerous other things, she twice served as senior steward, was a pastoral visitor, and supported the Leprosy Mission for which she raised funds, one event being a sponsored 5,000m marathon swim.

Half measures did not exist in her book: she was tireless and thorough, and when she organised something, it was organised well.

After four years’ of teaching in Leeds, she became a maths teacher at Allerton Grange School.

Soon she was deputy head of year seven, then head (in rotation) of year seven or eight, and finally head of the lower school with its 900 pupils and 36 form tutors.

She officially retired in 2006 but continued to teach when she knew of someone with a child in need of extra tuition, and she became a governor of Cross Gates Primary School. More than that, she went in each week to provide support for children whose maths ability was above the norm.

Her involvement with the Brownies had continued in Roundhay, seeing her receive a 40-year service award as a leader. She served as district treasurer, district commissioner, divisional commissioner and county publicity officer.

Mrs Smith is survived by her husband and their children Claudia, Matthew and Christopher, and three grandchildren.

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