i Editor's Letter: Heroes that glue society together


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The Independent Online

When I heard the family of the late great Peter Rippington pay tribute to the 59-year-old who died in the coach crash in France, it stopped me in my tracks.

This story really touched me. Peter was so much more than just another road fatality; more than a teacher who died bringing pupils back from a half-term ski trip. There was clearly nothing ordinary about this exceptional man, although he would view what he did as his "everyday".

Peter was married 28 years to his wife, Sharon, a fellow teacher injured in the crash alongside their daughter Amy (also a teacher). He had a son, Max, too. Peter taught maths and PE at Alvechurch Middle School for three decades. He arranged and went on school trips, giving many unpaid hours of his life to generations of Worcestershire schoolchildren.

You can't fake being a good teacher. Never mind Ofsted – children know. Peter's understood he was special. It was there in the tributes to "inspiring Mr Rip", some attached to an apple. Emotional parents at the school gate knew too, as did the headteacher who chose not to give media interviews but to focus on her pupils and staff.

Peter was known as a referee with the Mercian Festival Junior Football League – he had done this for 25 years too! People like Mr Rip are heroes that glue society together and make it better. I never knew him, but I know Mr/ Ms Rips at my girls' school (no names – too embarrassing), I know Mr Rips at the wonderful Woolwich Polytechnic School i visited last year. There's a Mr Rip at most schools.

We seldom say thank you. There are three teachers without whose skill and care I would not be here: Bernie Robson (RIP) who challenged me, Hugh Hargreaves who inspired me, and Pat Liddiard, who toughened me up. They were my personal Mr Rips. Exceptional teachers, extraordinary men – just like Peter Rippington.