Special assembly for ‘gentleman principal’

Simon Harper
Simon Harper
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Portadown College will hold a special assembly when term restarts on Monday, in memory of its widely respected principal Simon Harper.

Mr Harper, who was aged 57, died suddenly while on holiday in Scotland this week.

Following Monday’s special assembly, the school will close again for his funeral on Tuesday.

Senior prefects are being invited to represent the student body at the funeral, further details of which have yet to be released.

Vice principal Peter Richardson told the News Letter: “It is a very sad loss in so many ways. Simon was a great gentleman and a pleasure to work with.

“In any school there are so many challenges but he always took a moment to have a smile on his face and was a really great colleague to work with.

“The school has been closed since his death but we have been aware of the great impact it has had on so many.”

He noted in particular the stream of tributes on social media, many also using the term “gentleman” to describe him.

“Yes absolutely we have seen that and obviously in the media many people have commented on Simon’s leadership of the school and the impact that he has had on the students at Portadown College and at his previous schools.”

Mr Harper had been at Portadown College for 10 years, and the school has already paid tribute to his educational leadership, “infectious sense of fun and wicked humour” as well as cameo roles in several school charity events.

“Obviously we have not had the school community together yet but certainly even in speaking to some of our students and former students, the impact is very clear.

“In our contact with staff to date there has just been a sense of shock. Mr Harper led our final assembly last Tuesday, a special Easter assembly and presented music prizes.

“He then wished the students well as they went off for their Easter break. So there is just a great sense of shock and loss amongst all the college community.”

As the school enters exam season, the new term will begin with a special assembly.

“We will be taking the opportunity on Monday as a school community to remember Mr Harper and to give the students an opportunity to express their sympathies.

“We will obviously be supporting them in the way forward, Mr Harper would always have had this to the forefront – he was always student-centred and that is clearly where our focus will be come Monday.”

Pupils will have an opportunity on Monday to sign a book of condolence.

A special commemoration service will be held in due course.

The school's planned sports day on May 2 has been cancelled.