TRIBUTES have poured in to a popular head teacher who has passed away after a long battle with cancer.
Stephen Preston, who was head at Bedford High School in Leigh and also served in the top job at Westleigh High School, died aged 62 during the Christmas holidays.
Since his appointment at Bedford in 1999 the school has enjoyed record-breaking exam results, regularly posting best-ever GCSE results. His leadership was also instrumental in the school recently being classed among the top 10 per cent of most improved schools in the country.
An avid Manchester United fan, Mr Preston also ensured Bedford became the only school outside Manchester to enter into a partnership with the football club’s educational foundation and oversaw considerable improvements to the school’s facilities.
Mr Preston had regularly kept in touch with school life throughout his illness, while pupils attended special assembly services dedicated to his life and asked to be updated on his progress.
Colleagues and community leaders paid tribute to Stephen’s achievements and his commitment to ensuring students and staff achieved their full potential and his school played an active part at the heart of local life.
Acting head Jim Killeen said: “Stephen Preston was extremely kind and generous to both students and staff alike.
“He particularly enjoyed the music performances and drama productions, to which he often brought his family.
“He was a real leader, colleague, mentor and friend to all and he will be sadly missed by our school community.”
Chair of governors David Whitehead said: “Students, staff and governors are united in their sense of loss following the passing of Stephen Preston.
“He was proud to be a teacher and everything he did was for the benefit of our young people. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this desperately sad time.”
Leigh MP Andy Burnham said: “Steve was completely committed to improving the lives of young people in Leigh and raising their aspirations. We all owe him a huge debt.
“I will miss his good humour and advice, but will forever be grateful for his outstanding contributions to education in our borough.”
Mr Preston leaves his wife Lennore, daughter Stephanie and son Matthew.