Miss Courtney is the principal of the school at which Jeremy Brown teaches an EFL (English as a foreign language) class. When she first meets him, she tells him that she prefers women teachers and is very disappointed that the local education authority didn’t send her one, but agrees to give him the position on a one-month trial. Although she constantly looks for reasons to fire Mr. Brown and often leaves his classroom disappointed when she drops in to check on his students, her attitude toward him softens as the series progresses.
Miss Courtney is very proud of being unmarried and doesn’t hesitate to correct anyone who calls her “Mrs. Courtney”. Her abrasiveness and domineering personality earn her little respect from the school’s faculty and staff, who refer to her by insulting nicknames when they think she’s out of earshot. She can be easily flattered, which is implied to be a result of men not paying her much attention.
One of Miss Courtney’s most memorable traits is her way of saying “Enter” in a particular tone every time someone knocks on her office door. She also has a taste for sherry, though she tries to hide her drinking from the faculty and staff.
Miss Courtney was born in Northern England. As a young girl, she was known to be very plain and spent a great deal of time at her grandparents’ farm. She once eloped but didn’t get very far because she was only 6 and her lover only 8 at the time.
While studying at Oxford, Miss Courtney met and became engaged to a man named Albert Collins. She broke off the engagement in 1953 when they went to Brighton for the weekend and he passed out drunk on a settee instead of joining her in their hotel room. After earning her Master of Arts from Oxford, she replaced Mr. Short as principal of the school.