Tamsyn Imison was head of Hampstead School from 1984 to 2000. In 1998 she was one of the first two headteachers to be awarded the DBE by Tony Blair’s government. She was a passionate advocate for comprehensive education, believing in the potential for everyone to succeed in learning and life – that ‘all geese can be swans’, as she put it; that every child matters and has the right to be equal but different; and that the best possible education should be available to all children in their local community.
The book about the school, which she co-edited with Liz Williams and Ruth Heilbronn, Comprehensive Achievements: all our geese are swans was published by Trentham Books at IOE Press in 2014.
There follows a brief obituary drawn from John Dunford’s for the ASCL journal (for which she was a consultant in the 2000s).
Dame Tamsyn read science at Oxford University, but was expelled once she married Michael, taking up art at the Ruskin School and later moving to Queen Mary College, London, to read natural sciences. Her first job was as a scientific illustrator before she qualified as a science teacher at the age of 35.
As head of Hampstead School, a comprehensive school in Cricklewood in London, she was a leader in arts education, information technology and professional development, among other things, with many staff on an innovative Masters’ degree programme she devised with the Institute of Education. Fourteen Hampstead staff went on to be heads themselves. As a polymath herself, she believed in, and implemented, a truly broad and balanced curriculum and her networking skills were legendary. The school’s students established a charity, Children of the Storm, which provided food, clothes and emotional support to refugee children. She was a passionate lifelong advocate for comprehensive education and fervently opposed to selection but she was also active in the Girls’ School Association and a council member of a local fee-paying school.