Christine Roche, who has died at the age of sixty one, was a highly respected and influential Headteacher at the former Thorn Park School for the Deaf in Bradford where she gained the loyalty and affection of generations of pupils, staff and parents. Christine gave over thirty five years service to the school in which time she served as Special Needs Teacher, Deputy Head and Head.
Christine was born in Derby, grew up in Shrewsbury and first met deaf children as a student on visits to the Royal School for the Deaf at Exeter as part of her Psychology degree course. She first taught at Heathlands School in St. Albans and qualified as a Teacher of the Deaf at Manchester University but she was to give nearly four decades of service to deaf education in Yorkshire for which so many people are grateful.
Thirty years ago she successfully introduced sign language into the school to help alleviate the academic and social frustrations of so many profoundly deaf youngsters. Then more recently she worked tirelessly to oversee the council's closure of the school and the opening of two deaf provisions in mainstream schools, at Swain House Primary and Hanson Secondary Academy. The ARCs (Additionally Resourced Centres) are modern, purpose built settings which aim to continue the good work of Odsal House and Thorn Park schools and the marvellous contribution of Christine Roche.
Christine fought battles with cancer throughout her life, the last one preventing her from taking up the role as Head of the Deaf ARC at Hanson and eventually causing her recent death. Her funeral took place on 1st October at Keighley Shared Church. The building was full with family and friends plus past and present staff, pupils and parents. The service was lovely, highlighted by a performance of a signed song by current students at Hanson Academy who fondly remember Christine from her time at Thorn Park. She leaves a son and daughter, Timothy aged 29 and Hannah 27.
Christine's friends and colleagues remember her as a very sepcial person:
Christine was much respected and admired as a colleague and highly valued as a good friend. Generations of students, staff and parents greatly appreciated and valued her kindness, support and advice. She had a special talent for putting people at their ease and bringing out the best in them, children and adults alike.
Michael Pulford, Bradford Deaf Education Service
I fondly remember Christine Roche as a wonderful, kind-hearted person and a truly approachable leader.
Simla Hunsraj, Durban South Africa
She had that unique combination of strength, gentle kindness and warmth. She pulled the school through a very hard time but made it easier on all of us with her unique personality. She was an inspirational leader and educator.
John O'Neill, Australia
I learned more in the time I spent in Christine's company than anything else I have done over the last few years . More than anything else however , Christine taught me about life. She taught me the importance of being humble,of never complaining and staying strong when the odds are against you. I will always remember her.
Christine was a very kind, caring, compassionate individual who shared her time with staff and families of Deaf children. She has left beautiful memories behind and all the families appreciate the amount of effort Christine put in over the years. Christine went that extra mile each time and the provision for Deaf pupils would not be where it is today without her efforts.
Sabiqa Younus, Bradford Deaf Service
Christine was a wonderful leader. She really was a strong and courageous person who wanted the best for deaf children.
Christine Cashman, Bradford Deaf Education Service