Lowestoft school governor to get MBE
- Credit: Nick Butcher
When Susan Witthames was told that she had been made an MBE, she thought it was a hoax.
But next week the long-serving Lowestoft school governor will be making the trip to Buckingham Palace to collect her honour after being recognised for her services to education.
Mrs Witthames, 64, is currently a governor at Fen Park and Oulton Broad primary schools and was chairman of the board of governors at Lothingland Middle School from 1986 until it closed in July, 2011.
She has also worked with Suffolk County Council on education initiatives, was chairman of the admissions appeal panel for the northern area and is a founder member of the Suffolk Governors' Forum for the northern area.
Mrs Witthames, who lives in Oulton Broad, was put forward for an honour by Lothingland Middle's former head teacher, Jill Williams and colleagues past and present helped to compile evidence to support the nomination.
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On Tuesday, Mrs Witthames will travel to London to collect her honour with husband Peter, daughter Rhonagh and son Andrew.
But she admits that when she received the letter informing her of the nomination in November she thought it was a joke and had to read it several times before it sunk in.
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'I was so taken aback to receive this and so proud that the people I have worked with over the years felt I deserved it,' she said. 'Their show of appreciation by doing this means so much to me. It's really an honour for all governors to recognise the work that they do put in and the responsibilities that they have.'
Mrs Witthames became a governor at Lothingland Middle and Oulton Broad Primary in 1982 after answering an advert in The Journal, having previously worked as a scientist studying seals.
She said: 'I had just had my second child. I wasn't working and needed something to keep my brain active.
'They put me on two schools and I have been on ever since.'
The county council asked Mrs Witthames to chair the board of governors at Fen Park two years ago when the school was given a notice to improve, to help it get through its next Ofsted inspection.
After bringing in another experienced governor, she helped get the school back on track and stood down as chairman in September but has remained on the board at the request of its head, Heather Madsen.
She said her career as a governor was a demanding and time-consuming one but had been filled with pleasure. 'My highs have been seeing the children do well at school and go through from primary to middle school and even to high school,' she said.
'Seeing them develop and achieve is what it is all about in the end.'
But she said a low point was the closure of Lothingland Middle.
'I still don't agree with that,' she added.
'Not necessarily closing the middle schools, but not seeing the way they could have used the buildings.
'There is an initiative now for more education of young offenders. I think Lothingland's buildings will make an ideal young offender educational establishment.
'We formed a company to get Lothingland as a free school for special needs provision but we couldn't fit the criteria the government had at that time.
'That is my low in the whole time – losing that opportunity for education with that tremendous site.'