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Tributes for special head

PUBLISHED: 17:29 21 May 2008 | UPDATED: 09:46 23 August 2010

INFLUENTIAL: Simon Harrison.

INFLUENTIAL: Simon Harrison.

THE former head teacher of a special school, awarded an MBE for his services to special needs education, has died after a five year battle with a terminal illness. Simon Harrison MBE, 55, former head teacher of Ifield Special School, Cedar Avenue, Graves

THE former head teacher of a special school, awarded an MBE for his services to special needs education, has died after a five year battle with a terminal illness.

Simon Harrison MBE, 55, former head teacher of Ifield Special School, Cedar Avenue, Gravesend, died at his home in Tenterden, on Sunday.

Mr Harrison, who used to live on Darnley Road, Gravesend, until two years ago and was married with two children, was the head of the school for 18 years.

He retired five years ago after he was diagnosed with a progressive neurological condition called Multiple Systems Atrophy, which effects one in 100,000 people.

His son, Luke Harrison, 26, said: "He influenced a lot of people's lives. It is very difficult to try and sum up what he was like, he meant so much to me and to so many people.

"He spent his entire life helping the underdog, and that was one of the reasons why he went into teaching for special needs.

"He has left us letters, thanking everyone for their contribution to his life and he wishes everyone well. He was unconventional, both professionally and as a father, and we were very close. We will all miss him greatly."

Mr Harrison started teaching in Oxfordshire in the late 70s. In 1986 he became the head of Ifield Special School. During is time as head, Mr Harrison developed the SMILE centre, a support system for children with special needs in mainstream schools that is now being introduced across Kent. He also bought Ifield Wood for the school and was head teacher at a time when the school was marked an 'Outstanding School'. He was awarded an MBE by the queen in 2004.

Peter Read, chairman of governors at Ifield School, said: "Simon was an exceptional charismatic head who made the school one of the top special schools in the country. He will be remembered by many connected with the school and the local community.

"He will be greatly missed by all who knew him. He was a great man."

Mr Harrison took a keen interest in firework displays and was involved in a recreation of the gunpowder plot on Gravesend Promenade. He was married to Paula,and had two children, Luke and Anna, who is 23.

Pam Jones, head teacher of Ifield Special School took over from Mr Harrison when he retired.

She said: "Simon was ahead of his time. He was a visionary and saw things in a different way His death is a great loss for the whole of Kent special needs teaching."

Mr Harrison's funeral will take place at 12.30pm on Wednesday May 28, at St Mildred's Parish Church, Tenterden, Kent.

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