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Head teacher sorely missed

PUBLISHED: 10:20 11 March 2002 | UPDATED: 11:30 03 March 2010

HUGELY popular and highly respected by colleagues and pupils, the loss of a deputy headteacher after a 21-month cancer fight will be sorely felt at one of Suffolk's top secondary schools.

HUGELY popular and highly respected by colleagues and pupils, the loss of a deputy headteacher after a 21-month cancer fight will be sorely felt at one of Suffolk's top secondary schools.

Stuart Francis, 51, a teacher at Farlingaye High School, Woodbridge, died on Sunday after losing his battle against T-cell Lymphoma.

The father-of-two had hoped to return to his job in January, but learnt in November his cancer had returned.

Even so, he continued to work from his hospital bed and helped and advised his friends and colleagues until his death. Pupils at the Ransom Road school were told the sad news this week.

Mr Francis was married to Kath for 27 years and the couple had two daughters, Jess, 15 and Harriet, 13, who are both pupils at Farlingaye High School.

Paying tribute to her husband Mrs Francis, who teaches at Waldringfield Primary School, said: "Our relationship had reached an intuitive level of understanding.

"I loved him dearly and he proved to be a devoted husband and father as well as my best friend. We worked well together as a team and enjoyed simple pleasures like walking, gardening and good food.

"We both grew to love Woodbridge with its secret places and history and felt it was an excellent place to live and raise children. He will be laid to rest in Woodbridge Cemetery."

Headteacher Sue Hargadon described her deputy as "one of the kindest and most thoughtful people I have ever worked with" in a moving tribute to Mr Francis.

"Everyone in school – parents, staff, governors and students alike – agree that we have been lucky to have had a teacher and person of that quality amongst us, and it makes his loss even harder to bear," she said.

Mr Francis had taught at the Suffolk school for 17 years, specialising in history. He was then promoted to head of year, head of the upper school and finally deputy headteacher in 1996, for which he had a particular responsibility for staff. He also led the school's successful bid to achieve its Investors in People award.

His influence on the school will be long remembered. "He was extremely popular with staff, parents and students. This was partly due to his tremendous capacity to listen to people and sympathise with you. He had a wonderful knack of making you feel that you really mattered," said Ms Hargadon.

"He would always ask about you, rather than talk about himself. We all valued his opinion so much. He could make sense of any difficult situation.

"It is a tribute to him that, even when he was so ill, lots of staff, including me, still went round to see him with their problems, to talk things through and to seek advice."

Ms Hargadon added that Mr Francis worked "incredibly hard" on behalf of the school – and even continued to sort through reports and look at policies while in hospital. She said no one could have fought the disease with greater determination, dignity or good humour.

"He wanted to live and therefore he took on every treatment and every opportunity to survive. This meant that he was often in great pain," she said. "But visitors were rarely aware of that as he remained positive and cheerful throughout."


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