To countless middle-aged people around Dorking, Surrey, who were once pupils at Powell Corderoy school, my mother, Brenda Jenkins, who has died aged 96, was always known, slightly reverentially, as Mrs Jenkins. But to her family she was Mum or Grandma.
She started teaching at Powell Corderoy, a state primary, in the mid-1960s and stayed there until her retirement in 1984. She had a real ability to get the best out of children who were struggling, which is why she wanted to work with children with special educational needs.
Born in east London, Brenda was the daughter of Christopher Harley, a merchant at Billingsgate fish market, and his wife, Eleanor, a former milliner. At the outbreak of the second world war Brenda was evacuated to a mining village in South Wales along with other girls from Ilford county high school.
More than 30 years later, watching the children’s TV series Carrie’s War, she spotted it had been filmed in the same village to which she had been evacuated, and as the story unfolded Brenda realised some of the events were very familiar to her own experiences. Only then did she realise that the Nina Mabey with whom she had been at school had later found fame as Nina Bawden, the author of Carrie’s War.
Brenda loved children and always wanted to be a teacher. By the end of the war, after training in Saffron Walden, Essex, she had started teaching, first in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, and later in Ipswich, Suffolk. She married William Jenkins in 1950; they set up home in Chessington, Surrey, and Brenda took a break to raise their four children, Peter, Colin, Marion and me, before starting at Powell Corderoy.
Having children, and later eight grandchildren, kept Brenda in touch with new technology. Even if it required getting completely new skills she would not be daunted. In her 80s she taught herself how to use a computer so she could email her friends and family, and she joined Facebook, passing comments and occasionally posting photos. In her final weeks, when she was isolated at home because of the lockdown, she even managed to make video calls.
Brenda’s rapport with children was obvious from the affection generations of her ex-pupils held her in. She was still in touch with one former pupil she had taught in the late 1940s, and who is now in her late 70s.
She is survived by her children and her grandchildren, Charlie, Liz, Angus, Emily, Sarah, Hetty, Alasdair and Billy.
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