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Published: 16 July 2009
Dilys Hoffman bids farewell to pupils at Beckford primary school in West Hampstead after 11 years as headteacher
Dilys Hoffman bids farewell to pupils at Beckford primary school in West Hampstead after 11 years as headteacher
Head to leave after 25 years

A POPULAR long-serving headteacher at a West Hampstead primary school is standing down after nearly a decade at the helm.
New York-born Dilys Hoffman, 56, has been headteacher at Beckford primary school in Dornfell Street for 11 years and a teacher there since 1984.
While Beckford was recognised by Ofsted in 2007 as a good school with outstanding features, Ms Hoffman says she is most proud of creating a “happy” school where children have “the time of their lives”.
Last year saw the fruition of years of saving and planning – a new stairway to the dinner hall and a special room for parents to sit and talk informally with each other and teachers.
“I couldn’t bear to watch the kids and the staff traipsing through the weather just to get their lunch, and being wet for the rest of the day,” said Ms Hoffman.
During almost 40 years in education Ms Hoffman, a mother-of-two who lives in West Hampstead, said she had seen huge changes in the classroom, largely due to the introduction of the national curriculum in 1988.
“I started in the 1970s where you could kind of do what you liked,” she said.
Ms Hoffman said the Education Reform Act changed the face of teaching and introduced a more uniform school system that made it easier to compare schools, but forced out some of her favourite techniques from lessons.
“Teachers lost their individuality and couldn’t express themselves and had to do what the government said – it meant really good teachers weren’t able to shine,” she said.
But in more recent years the curriculum has fallen out of favour with government and more old-fashioned styles are back in fashion, said Ms Hoffman.
“With the relaxation of the curriculum you can follow the interests of the kids,” she said.
“In the old days we produced fantastic books. We couldn’t do that, but it’s coming back now.”
Ms Hoffman says she is also proud of the school’s diversity and how well the children get on, describing Beckford as a “mini United Nations”.
She said that while she would miss the “buzz” of the school, the 12 to 13-hour days and weekend work meant it was time to hand over the reins to someone new.
Ms Hoffman plans to devote more time to her interest in palaeontology and her fossil collection, and take a beach holiday in Greece.
She also wants to improve her watercolour painting and her flute playing.
Samantha Smith from Miles Coverdale School in Shepherd’s Bush will take over next term.

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