Frank Burns obituary

My friend Frank Burns, who has died aged 73, was among the first generation of teachers to work in the new special schools of the 1970s, helping pupils with severe learning difficulties who had previously been regarded as “uneducable” and were therefore put under the care of the local health authority.

He went on to become headteacher at Birchbank special school in Telford, Shropshire, and then, in the same town, at the Bridge special school, where he stayed until his retirement in 1999. Wherever he was, Frank had a deep and abiding respect and affection for his pupils, who always loved his teaching.

A kind and compassionate man, he was also astute in recognising talent within his teaching staff, and nurtured a good number of careers. Many owe him a debt of gratitude for his drive and unstinting passion to achieve the best outcomes for vulnerable people.

Frank was born in Guildford, Surrey, to Peter Burns, a schools inspector, and his wife, Joan (nee Thomas); together they had nine children and adopted five others. After schooling at Ampleforth college near York, where he was a day pupil, Frank worked as a residential care officer in Shropshire and Gloucestershire, before enrolling at the age of 22 at Bristol University, where he did a National Association for Mental health course followed by teacher training.

His first job as a teacher was in charge of a special unit in Telford (1971-75) before becoming deputy head at Birchbank, rising to be headteacher there in 1980. He joined Bridge school (now Hadley Learning Centre) as head teacher in 1994.

In retirement Frank was elected to the town council of Wellington, where he lived, and from 2003 represented the Haygate ward for many years. He was appointed by the council as its representative on the governing body of Dothill school in Wellington and also ran a successful campaign for council members to receive an annual allowance for expenses. He was twice mayor of Wellington (2006-7 and 2012-13) and in that role raised money for the local Severn Hospice and for the KIP Project, a charity for homeless people.

A well known and popular figure in the town, he was also a founder member of the Wellington Regeneration Project, which was set up to promote and develop Wellington as an attractive place to live and work.

Frank is survived by his wife, Monica (nee Pagett), whom he married in 1972, their two daughters, Sarah and Rebecca, and four grandchildren, Adele, James, Leo and William.

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