THE funeral of a much-loved and respected headteacher was due to take place today.
Paula Williams, principal of Whitburn Church of England Academy, died last Monday after contracting pneumonia during the holidays.
Her funeral was expected to take place in Esh Winning today at our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church.
The school closed as a mark of respect.
Youngsters have also been signing a book of condolence, which has been set up in the school, and more than 1,500 people have joined a Facebook page called RIP Paula Williams, where she has been dubbed the Dumbledore of Whitburn C of E Academy.
A memorial service will be held at the school on Friday, January 28, in the school’s Septimus Hall, which Ms Williams loved.
It will give students past and present, colleagues, parents and friends the opportunity to remember her.
Acting principal Alan Hardie said: “The staff and pupils are mourning the loss of their inspirational headteacher, who had such a wonderful, positive impact on all of their lives.
“I would like to thank the staff and governors who have provided the most amazing support during this most difficult of times.
“I also wish to thank the many parents, carers, former pupils, members of the local community and Paula’s former colleagues who have expressed their condolences.
“Finally, I would like to thank the outstanding pupils of the academy, who have behaved with a maturity beyond their years. I cannot think of a more fitting tribute to Paula than the way that the whole community of the academy has responded to her loss and I know that she will live on in all of our hearts.”
Whitburn Parish Church in Church Lane was opening for students and those unable to make the funeral to pay their last respects between 11am and noon today.
There will not be a service, but it will be an opportunity for quiet contemplation.
Those mourning Ms Williams’ death have also been leaving floral tributes at the parish church, where a book of condolence has also been set up.