A GOVERNOR who dedicated more than a decade to turning round the fortunes of a struggling school has been honoured with a classroom in her name.

Joan Westbury, of Lambourne Road, Chigwell Row, took up a role as governor of Debden Park High in 2000, shortly after the school opened.

Over the past 12 years she has overseen its transformation from special measures to outstanding-rated school, giving up her time to train, attend meetings, talk with parents and students and support shows and events.

Mrs Westbury – who recently turned 70 - decided to retire in September after five years as chair of governors.

But staff, students and friends tempted her into school for one last time on Wednesday for the surprise unveiling of the its latest facility – the Westbury training suite.

“It’s amazing, it’s absolutely amazing,” said the grandmother-of-three.

“I wasn’t expecting it all – they told my husband but they didn’t tell me.

“It has been a challenge, because Debden Park went through some difficult times. But it’s an amazing school now, with an amazing headteacher.”

Debden Park became partners with Waltham Abbey’s King Harold Academy in 2009 and the latter, under Mrs Westbury’s chairmanship, was recognised as the third most improved school in the county.

She previously served for 15 years as a governor at Chigwell Row Primary School and has also spent 20 years selling Traidcraft products and working to raise awareness of the cause.

Debden Park headteacher Christian Cavanagh said: “Joan is a special person - she wants to make a difference and will do the hard work to make it happen.  

“Joan has faced difficulties of her own, last year a spell in hospital and she is also the main carer for her husband. She does not complain and gets on with it. 

“Her passion is contagious and her vision inspiring. She has not only given us her experience and knowledge to help us become the school we are today but also her time and commitment has been invaluable.”