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Tributes to top-class West Hampstead teacher

PUBLISHED: 12:52 22 January 2009 | UPDATED: 15:50 07 September 2010

May Berkery

May Berkery

Tan Parsons A PIONEER of nursery education who founded a preparatory school in West Hampstead has died, aged 85. May Berkery formed Broadhurst School in Greencroft Gardens in 1958 – a private school for children aged two and upwards which currently has a

Tan Parsons

A PIONEER of nursery education who founded a preparatory school in West Hampstead has died, aged 85.

May Berkery formed Broadhurst School in Greencroft Gardens in 1958 - a private school for children aged two and upwards which currently has a waiting list of 500.

It is now so oversubscribed that places can only be offered to the children of women who apply before they are four months pregnant.

Mrs Berkery lived next door to Broadhurst, where she was still actively involved into her old age, and she was still visiting the classrooms until her early 70s.

Her passion for early years learning was ignited when she looked for a nursery school for her daughter Deirdre and son Brian in the 1950s and was horrified at what nursery provision offered at the time.

Now headteacher of the family-run school, her daughter said this week: "She had endless energy and patience in her work with young children and introduced many thousands of children to their first experiences away from home."

Although she had initially trained to teach older children, Mrs Berkery decided to undertake further training in early years education and when she opened the school in 1958 there were just four pupils.

The school went from strength to strength and her daughter joined as a teacher in 1972 after completing her own training.

Mother and daughter worked together at Broadhurst for many years and it remains a family-run school with son Brian now the bursar.

Mrs Berkery was a strong advocate of learning through play and this ethos still exists in the school today.

Her daughter added: "She took enormous pleasure from watching her two grandsons Jamie and Simon growing up.

"They went to Broadhurst and on to Arnold House and St Paul's and, until the past few years, she did not miss a concert or drama production in which they were involved.

"Her family was her first love and the children at Broadhurst were her extended family."

A private funeral is being held today and anyone wanting to make a donation can help the Alzheimer's Research Trust.

Messages of condolence can be sent to Broadhurst School, 19 Greencroft Gardens, NW6 3LP or emailed to mayberkery@broadhurstschool.com and they will form part of the book of condolence set up on the school's website.


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