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Tributes flood in for former head of Swinton High School John Biddlestone

Tributes have been paid to a long-serving teacher in Salford who has passed away suddenly and unexpectedly.

John Biddlestone sadly died after collapsing while out walking in the Lake District on Wednesday 20 April.

His funeral will take place in the Lake District on Friday 29 April at 2pm in Finswhaite near Windermere in the Lake District.

In lieu of flowers people can donate to Preston Hospital’s Cancer Treatment ward at the request of the family.

John had retired to Cumbria with his wife Maggie after serving more than 20 years in various positions in local schools.

He leaves behind two sons and three grandchildren.

Current Swinton High headteacher Mark Harrison posted a lengthy tribute on the school website detailing John’s achievements and his legacy.

Read: Joy for Swinton High School after it retains ‘Good’ mark

He writes: “Away from school Mr Biddlestone had many passions including birdwatching and his beloved Aston Villa Football club.

“Anyone who spoke to him could instantly tell that family meant the world to him and that caring side came through to the students at The Swinton High School as well.

“For me it is best summed up by a student in year eleven who was speaking to me about Mr Biddlestone on Friday who said “you could always talk to him, somehow he just always knew when you needed him most.”

John teaching career started in Liverpool in 1976 where he began teaching English.

He was Deputy head at Canon Williamson CE (now Salford City Academy) in Eccles between 1993 and 2003, before being made Headteacher at Swinton High School where he served for 12 years.

“John gave over 20 years of his life for the children of Salford,” said Mr Harrison.

Read: Emotional farewell for headteacher after 43 years at same Salford school

“This is an exceptionally sad loss for so many people and already many staff and students have been talking about the impact he had on their lives.”

Mr Biddlestone was a warm and generous man and was always kind with reporters from SalfordOnline.com.

He is also credited with turning the school around and saving it from closure in 2012.

Mr Harrison writes: “During his time leading the school it saw year on year improvements in the outcomes its children achieved and in fact, if it had not been for the drive and commitment of Mr Biddlestone, the school would no longer be here at all.

“It was the work of Mr Biddlestone that saw the school remain open and convert to an Academy, a move that has seen the school develop even further.

“Mr Biddlestone’s direct involvement and leadership are the move to academisation, the complete renovation of the school through external funding worth over £3 million, record results in every one of the 12 years he led the school and a massive increase in the number of children moving on to better college placements and University.

“His impact also spread across a wider area as Mr Biddlestone was designated as a National Leader of Education meaning that he supported schools across the entire North West of England in improving the education received by their children too.

Swinton High School was made the city’s first Converter Academy in 2011.

“There is no doubt that Mr Biddlestone positively impacted on the lives of thousands of Salford’s children, the community of Swinton benefited from his personal determination to help his students be successful no matter what,” Mr Harrison added.

A book of condolence is being specially printed and will be opened at the school in the coming weeks for any pupils present or past to sign.

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Tom is SalfordOnline.com's News Editor and community co-ordinator.