TRIBUTES have been paid to the former head of a United Nations school who started her teaching career in Blackburn.

Joyce Wakenshaw, who taught at St Aidan’s CE Primary School and Crosby Road Nursery School in the 1950s, went on to become the director of the United Nations School in Geneva, Switzerland.

Ex-colleagues described her as ‘a much-loved and hugely respected’ woman.

Miss Wakenshaw died on Saturday, one day after her 86th birthday, at a care home in her adopted village of Anbury, Surrey, after a six-year battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Stella Best, Miss Wakenshaw’s best friend for 67 years, also taught at St Aidan’s and the pair lived in the same house in Sunny Bank Road, Blackburn, at the beginning of their careers.

She said: “All of her colleague and pupils adored her. We were like sisters. She lived for children all her life and rose to quite a prominent position.”

At St Aidan’s, Miss Wakenshaw formed the Girls’ Friendly Society, and returned to the town to meet her old friends at a reunion a decade ago.

The psychology graduate, who was separated from her Hungarian husband and never had children, left Blackburn in 1959 to join the United Nations Nursery School, where she oversaw the school’s development into a full primary school. She also served on the board of directors at the International School of Geneva (Ecolint) from 1975 until her retirement in 1990.

A statement from Ecolint said: “Many grateful parents will remember Mrs Wakenshaw’s talent and dedication to children with special needs, helping them and their families deal with difficult situations in our international environment.”

Cyril Ritchie, member and chairman of the UN School Board from 1966-75, added: “She just loved little children – from her own childhood onwards.

“As she once wrote: ‘After primary education, all else is secondary’.”

A funeral for Miss Wakenshaw, originally from Blyth, in Northumberland, will take place in Surrey on August 8.