Kingsdale have announced the sad passing of their legendary director of performing arts Mrs Mary Graham and paid tribute to her as a woman that transformed the musical landscape of the Dulwich school and surrounding primaries.
Headteacher Steve Morrison said: “It is with heartfelt sadness and regret that we inform our local community that the musical giant, Mrs Mary Graham passed away peacefully surrounded by her beloved children Peter and Nicola, her grandchildren Isabella and Alexander and close extended wider family members.”
Mrs Graham was given a lifetime achievement award in 2021 for work in education having been based at the school for over half a century. That year staff celebrated being named the ‘most thanked’ school in the UK.
The news came as schools across the country celebrated Thank a Teacher Day, a national campaign to honour and recognise school and college staff for their work, especially over the previous year of the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to data from the Thank a Teacher campaign, staff at Kingsdale Foundation School received more thank you messages than any other school across the United Kingdom, having received more than 2,000 Thank You messages in the month leading up to the awards.
“Mary Graham was awarded the prestigious Lifetime Achievement National Teaching Silver Award for London and the South East of England in 2021 in recognition of her amazing contribution to the teaching profession,” Mr Morrison said in his tribute.
“On behalf of the generations of students who benefited from Mary’s work we salute her. The teaching profession has lost a true legend and a treasured colleague.
“Mrs Graham was unique. Mary Graham loved Kingsdale and Kingsdale loved her. She dedicated her professional life to the success of one school.
“We extend the greatest thanks to Mrs Graham for everything she did to establish Kingsdale as a proud, diverse, class-neutral and Outstanding School as well as the most popular school London has ever known.”
He made note of the fact that she has mentored “hundreds” of younger teachers and pushed for better music tuition at nearby primary schools.
She ran a music scholarship programme that helped more than 1,500 pupils get to grade six or above on various musical instruments.
Mrs Graham also ran music tours to countries including Brazil, Namibia, and Canada. At the Pearson National Teaching Awards it was said her influence was best shown by the large numbers of former students who now play in the West End.
Mrs Graham was “central” to Kingsdale’s drastic improvement from the 1990s, when it was put under special measures.
Mr Morrison said: Mrs Graham flourished at Kingsdale Foundation School for over half a century working alongside her late husband, Barry for over 40 years, during which time she shaped, organised and directed the musical education of thousands of young people at Kingsdale and beyond, as well as the careers of innumerable colleagues and Newly Qualified Teachers.”
He added that she was “determined that every child should be given opportunities to develop the skills, knowledge and tools to enable them to excel in Music.”
He said she will always be remembered for her “passion, exceptionally high standards, immense drive and for the spectacular and plentiful music concerts and festivals that took place throughout each academic year.
“These events enabled students at all levels to participate and celebrate their collective love of music,” he said.
Memorial arrangements are scheduled to begin on the morning of Tuesday, May 11. Further details will be available from the school, on request in advance, to those wishing to pay their respects.