TRIBUTES have been paid to an inspirational headteacher who has died aged 70.

Elizabeth Ward served as deputy headteacher and then headteacher at Colchester County High School for Girls.

She retired in 2010 before becoming a governor at Ramsey Academy in Halstead.

She died after a battle with a rare form of abdominal cancer at Colchester Hospital.

While Mrs Ward was universally respected, teaching was not her first choice of career. The youngest of eight children, she thought she would follow her mother’s career as a nurse.

Her mother advised against it and nursing’s loss was teaching’s gain.

Her first job was at a secondary modern in Watford in 1971. She stayed there for ten years teaching English before moving to a comprehensive near Chelmsford and then again to Coplestone School in Ipswich, where she stayed for four years.

It was then she joined Colchester County High School for Girls as deputy headteacher and became head in 1998.

Her husband Alan said: “The high school was her main interest. She was one of the few heads who would insist on doing some classroom teaching and taught for three hours a week.

“It was never an ambition to be headteacher, it just happened and she would go with the flow.

“She was professional and confident in what she did and she realised the potential was there. She developed it for the good of the girls.”

Although the school was one of the top in the country for exam results, Mrs Ward understood there was more to education than exams.

Alan, her husband of 46 years, said: “She didn’t believe in putting the girls in straight jackets and telling them where to go. She would support them for as long as she could.”

During her headship, Mrs Ward initiated many important developments including a new science building and sixth form study centre.

She understood it was important to develop links between the school and the community and she joined Colchester Rotary Club.

Outside of education, she started learning to play the piano and enjoyed gardening and photography.

Her funeral will be held at St Teresa Roman Catholic Church in Lexden on July 25 at 10.30am. There will be a private cremation at the Three Counties Crematorium in Bocking.