An “inspirational” headteacher who turned a struggling school into an outstanding establishment has died.

Clare Critchley, 54, lost her battle against ovarian cancer on Tuesday, the day of her 30th wedding anniversary.

Her husband Ian, 53, led tributes to the “determined and organised” woman who was always at the centre of village life.

Mr Critchley, from North Street, Fritwell, near Bicester, said: “In the context of teaching she was very determined and professional.

“Clare cared a lot about her students. She was lovely; a very warm and caring person who was a joy to be with.”

The couple met aged 19 at teacher training college and married a few years later.

During her career Mrs Critchley taught in schools in Essex, Stratford-upon-Avon and Beaconsfield, before taking her first headship at Fritwell Primary School, which was rated outstanding by the education watchdog Ofsted, under her leadership.

Mr Critchley said: “I think that was one of her signal achievements. She felt very proud.

“When she joined the school it was having problems and she took it to outstanding, much to the approval of our neighbours.”

During her seven years at the school Mrs Critchley also oversaw the completion of a new £1.5m school building and renovation programme.

In 2007 Mrs Critchley, a keen scuba diver and skier, moved to Southwold School, in Holm Square, Bicester, as headteacher.

However, she was forced to retire in February 2011 after the cancer she had beaten twice, in 2006 and 2009, returned.

Her illness did not stop her staying involved in education, and she became a governor at nearby Chesterton School.

Mrs Critchley was also a Fritwell parochial church councillor and, in the past few weeks, had been helping to organise the village fete.

A statement from Southwold School said: “Clare was an inspiration to the staff, pupils and parents of Southwold School.

“She had a clear vision for our school and led with passion, drive and commitment, enabling children to reach their full potential.

“Her caring, bubbly nature made such a positive impact on our school, and a memory that will never leave us.”

Joanne Daly, the current headteacher at Fritwell School, also paid tribute to Mrs Critchley.

She said: “Clare was a much loved headteacher who made a difference to the lives of so many children.

“She will be sorely missed by everyone who knew and loved her.”

Mrs Critchley’s funeral will take place in St Olave’s Church, in Fritwell, next Friday, at 2.45pm.

Mr Critchley has asked for family flowers only. A collection will be made for Sobell House hospice, which supported the couple.