Aylsham mourns ‘outstanding’ young teacher, Jenny Bird

Just Regional
Mar 2, 2020 5 mins read

Family, friends, and colleagues are mourning an outstanding young teacher after her sudden and unexpected death.

Jenny Bird, a rising star in the world of Norfolk education, went to school in Aylsham where her parents still live and where she had settled and bought a home with her fiancé, Robert Dodd.

Jenny, who would have celebrated her 33rd birthday on March 18, died in her sleep overnight on February 21-22. She had been suffering with a chest infection but the cause of her death is not yet known.

Jenny and Robert, a construction site supervisor known as “Doddy”, had been together for 11 years and had bought a home, on Aylsham’s Willow Park, four-and-a-half years ago. They moved there after living in Reepham for about five years.

The couple worked hard and played hard – enjoying holidays abroad, gigs, pubs, restaurants and getting together with their large circle of friends.

Doddy and Jenny’s parents – Sue and John – have been overwhelmed with scores of cards and messages of sympathy from all over the world, including Australia and Malaysia, where the Birds took regular holidays.

Jenny was very family-minded and loved spending time with her parents, her older brother, Elliott, and his wife, Rachel, and their baby daughter, Dottie.

She liked to keep in touch by phone too and, when parted from Doddy, rang him several times a day. She would also call her parents daily, often chatting to Sue for up to two hours.

Mum and daughter would regularly go shopping – Jenny loved to dress up – and have lunch or afternoon tea together, and Jenny often turned to her mum for advice.

Known for her ever-present smile and generosity, Jenny had been an adoring aunty and had already bought presents for Dottie’s first birthday, on March 4. In her memory, Elliott and Rachel have now legally changed Dottie’s name from Dorothy Matilda Bird to Dorothy Matilda Jenny Bird.

Jenny graduated from Bishop Grosseteste University in Lincoln with an honours degree in primary education and went on to specialise in helping Norfolk’s most disadvantaged children.

She had become leader at the Brooklands Short Stay School, in Gorleston, which supports children who have been excluded from, or are unable to attend, mainstream education.

The school, part of the Unity Education Trust, was closed on February 24 as a mark of respect, and to allow staff and children time to come to terms with the news.

Paying tribute to Jenny, Glyn Hambling, chief executive of the trust,  said: “She was an extraordinary person who was always child-centred, an outstanding teacher and her loss will be felt deeply across the school, trust and the wider community.”

Doncaster-born, Jenny had moved to Buxton with her family in 1988 when John, who was serving in the RAF, was posted to RAF Coltishall.

According to Sue, Jenny had been absolutely determined to become a teacher ever since she had been a pupil at Buxton Primary School where she had been taught by the “inspirational” Phil Hepworth.

After John’s retirement from the RAF, the Birds moved to Aylsham where Jenny attended Aylsham High School and, later, Paston Sixth Form College, in North Walsham.

While studying for her degree in Lincoln, Jenny took a placement at The Hall School, in Norwich, where she made such an impression that she was offered a job after graduating. She became a special educational needs teacher there during her NQT probationary year, helping children with severe learning difficulties.

In a meteoric rise, she went on to hold a number of posts over a six-year period, at the Douglas Bader Short Stay School, Badersfield, where, within three years, she was serving in senior leadership roles.
Her career then took her to Brooklands, from September 2015 until March last year when she went back, as leader, to Douglas Bader, returning to lead Brooklands again in December last year.

“Jenny always rose to a challenge and loved to be stretched,” said John. “Despite working with some very difficult children in very demanding circumstances, she never once stopped wanting to do the job.”

Always willing to help others, Jenny had often given her spare time freely to help bewildered parents with educational needs statements which unlocked the door to support and funding for their children.

“Jenny was my soulmate,” said Sue. “Never a day went by without me talking to her. She was so much part of our lives. Whenever she walked into a room, she lit it up.”

Doddy and Jenny became engaged in 2017 at the top of The Shard in London, the day before her 30th birthday.

He said: “Some couples are very touchy-feely in public. We weren’t like that. We didn’t need to show it, but we knew that we worked really well as a team, and that we loved each other.”

Jenny’s funeral will be held on Monday, March 16, in St Michael’s Church, Aylsham, at 2.15pm, followed by a cremation service for family only. After the church service, mourners are invited to celebrate Jenny’s life at The Plough Inn, Marsham, where the family will join them after the cremation.
They have asked for colourful dress to be worn, not black, and for no flowers. Any donations to the Norfolk Youth Diabetic Group would be welcomed.

Jenny and Doddy
Jenny Bird

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