Heartfelt tributes after death of 'dedicated and devoted' Holbrook Academy headteacher Dr Simon Letman
PUBLISHED: 06:47 15 April 2019 | UPDATED: 15:33 15 April 2019
Emotional tributes have been paid following the shock death of a transformative headteacher who inspired generations of young people.
Dr Simon Letman has been described as a “dedicated and devoted” headteacher who not only transformed the fortunes of Holbrook Academy but motivated hundreds of students with his inspiring words: “I'm going to take you to infinity and beyond.”
Louise Cullen, chair of governors at Holbrook Academy, said the community around the Shotley Peninsula had been left devastated after his death late on Saturday, April 13.
“Everyone is beside themselves with grief,” she said.
“Everyone is really upset. He made a huge difference to an enormous number of young people.”
But she also said they had been “absolutely privileged to have known him”, with many people taking to social media to share their memories of someone who has been described as a legendary figure in education.
Dr Letman, who had a PhD in history of art, initially worked as a police officer before moving into education.
He went on to become headmaster at St Felix School in Southwold and director of studies at Holbrook's Royal Hospital School.
He moved to Holbrook Academy in 2013 to take the school his own daughters attended from special measures to good within a few short years.
Ms Cullen said: “He was an outstanding headteacher and an inspirational man. He has been absolutely transformative for Holbrook. He changed its fortunes from one of the worst performing schools in the country to one of the best.
“He was a dedicated and devoted person. He loved his school and the students and staff. He was a warm and happy person.
“He transformed people's lives through his enthusiasm for learning. He was an incredibly gifted and clever person.”
Many leaders might be well known for only giving orders – but Ms Cullen said Dr Letman had “such a unique talent to be able to listen to people and get them on your side”.
She added: “He was a superb educator and a great team leader.
“He was just such a figurehead. He was legendary to the students and I don't think there's a family in the peninsula who isn't moved and saddened by the news.”
Ms Cullen said the community will now rally round to support Dr Letman's family and each other at a time when many students are preparing to sit GCSE exams.
A book of condolence is due to be opened at Holbrook Academy's sports centre on Monday to give past and present pupils and their families a chance to share their thoughts about how Dr Letman impacted on their lives.
Ms Cullen thanked Holbrook Academy deputy headteacher Nicky Mayhew, who will now take on the role of acting headteacher at an incredibly difficult time.