Tragic coach crash

PUPILS today returned to the school devastated by a coach crash tragedy which claimed the lives of one of its most popular teachers. 

A sombre mood gripped Alvechurch Middle School, Alvechurch, Worcestershire, as students arrived for morning classes. 

A number of pupils gathered around a flagpole in the car park where candles and floral tributes to games and maths teacher Peter Rippington, 59, had been laid. 

Mr Rippington died on Sunday morning after the coach he was travelling in ran into a ditch in Northern France. 

Today/yesterday (SUN), as the flag outside the school flew at half-mast, more pupils and parents left floral tributes at the scene. 

Several pupils left apples, with which the popular teacher - known as 'Mr Ripp' - was associated.

By the end of the morning school run, dozens of bouquets, pictures and other tributes had been left.

Several pupils wept as they approached the school grounds, and had to be comforted by their parents. 

Police stood guard at all three gates of the school complex, which also houses a junior school, as parents brought their children in. 

Parents expressed shock at the death of Mr Rippington, described as a well-loved teacher who was known to many in the local area.

Parent Sharon McCann paid an emotional tribute to 'Mr Ripp' outside the school. 

Fighting back tears as she praised the "inspirational" teacher, she said: "He could get the kids to do things that other teachers couldn't. 

"He was the best, he's going to be missed so much, he was lovely.

"It's a huge loss to the school."

Mrs McCann, 40, added that Mr Rippington, who had been due to retire next month, was a well-known character in the small village. 

She said: "He used to speak to everyone, he was so polite and friendly, he always had a good thing to say. 

"He always rode his bike to school, he had a very healthy lifestyle. 

"It's so cruel, why does it always happen to the best?"

Mrs McCann said her son Cameron, 13, had been devastated when he heard news of the popular teacher's death. 

She said: "He always said when he had detention Mr Ripp would sit at the front of the class peeling his apple. 

"When he heard he said he wanted to leave an apple with all the flowers as a tribute."

Former pupil Rich Burnett, 22, said that Mr Rippington, who had been at the school for around 30 years, taught a great number of people in the village. 

He said: "He was very well-known outside of the school and around the village.

"You couldn't go through the school without being taught by him.

"He will be missed greatly - he was a funny guy who loved his job.

"It's a real shock for the true villagers that this has happened."

Staff at the school and the local Reverend also paid tribute to Mr Rippington. 

Revd David Martin, Rector of Alvechurch, said Mr Rippington "gave his whole life to Alvechurch CE Middle School."

He added: "Peter was very much part of the wider community in Alvechurch and will be missed by many."

Rev Martin said that St Laurence's Church in the village would be open all day for well-wishers to say prayers and light candles. 

Chair of Governors Bryan Maybee also paid tribute to the "inspirational and dedicated" teacher

He  said: "I am thankful to be able to confirm that the staff and children who were well enough to travel and are not staying in France, arrived back safely on Sunday night at around midnight."

He added: "The headteacher's focus at this time is, as I am sure you will understand, is being available to all who need her within the school.

"She joins me in praising Peter Rippington for all he has done for the school and local community over the years and her thoughts, as are mine, are with his family at this tragic time."

Neighbour Pamela Wainwright, 28, came to pay her respects to her former teacher. 

She said that Mr Rippington, who lived on the same street as her, would be remembered for the school trips he organised. 

She said: "The main memory I'll have is the ski trips and how he made it on those ski trips. 

"He was just a fantastic man, he was a lovely man, very generous and supportive.

"It's devastating really, especially for the family, it's a tragic loss."