My partner, Christine Barton, who has died aged 67, was the first female teacher to be appointed a head of science in a Sheffield school. She went on to become deputy head at the school, Frecheville, before joining the education advisory service in Leeds.
In 1983 she was diagnosed with a severe form of multiple sclerosis, which progressed relentlessly, resulting in quadriplegia by around 1998. After retiring from the education advisory service in 1993 on health grounds, Christine focused her exceptional intellect and clarity of vision on issues around disability.
She helped to set up one of the first direct payment systems, whereby disabled people could choose to control their own care budgets. This system is now the norm throughout England and Wales. With a colleague, Jacquie Stubbs, Christine also set up Inclusive Living Sheffield, the city’s first service-user-led organisation. Christine’s work was recognised when she was made an MBE in 2000.
The following year, Christine joined the newly formed General Social Care Council as a board member. She remained a member for six years, overlapping this responsibility with a stint on the NHS Long-Term Neurological Conditions research initiative as a steering group member. Christine’s national role ended with two years as an advisory board member of the National Institute for Health Research School for Social Care Research, where she argued passionately for funding of research shaped by and involving service users. She resigned from this role in 2010 when the effort of travelling to London became too much for her.
Despite increasing impairment, Christine continued to train social workers, PAs and disabled people in Sheffield on issues around direct payments. Her final roles were as a member of Sheffield LINK (Local Involvement Network) and Partners for Inclusion.
One of three children, Christine was born in Lee, south London. Her father was an instrument maker for the MoD and her mother worked as a tambour beader. Christine did well at school and won a scholarship to Haberdasher’s Aske’s Hatcham college in New Cross.
She left school at 16, married at 18, and soon had two children, Neal and Lindsay. The marriage did not last and Christine took various jobs to support her family before enrolling in 1974 on a BEd course at London University. She continued to work while studying, but still gained a first, and started work as a teacher at Stantonbury Campus, Milton Keynes, in 1977. Christine and I met there, moved to Sheffield, and married in 1980. She became an assistant science teacher at Hurlfield school, then in 1982 head of biology at Jordanthorpe school, and head of science at Frecheville school in 1985.
Christine was determined to overcome barriers, and to participate and contribute throughout her life. She once said: “I find it necessary to struggle against most of society just to remain ordinary. I always put it that I lead an ordinary life in an extraordinary way.”
She is survived by me, her children, Neal, Lindsay, Jane, and Stephen, and grandchildren, Charlotte and Mathew.