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Catholic college joins tributes to ex-pupil killed in Reading stabbings

The parents of teacher James Furlong have paid tribute to him after he was named as one of the three victims of the Reading terror attack.

Mr Furlong, 36, was head of history, government and politics at The Holt School in Wokingham, and died during the incident, which took place at 7pm on Saturday in Forbury Gardens, in the town centre.

Mr Furlong grew up in Liverpool and St Francis Xavier’s Catholic College in Woolton paid tribute to their former pupil.

“Our prayers are with him and his family,” said a statement posted by the secondary school on Instagram.

His parents Gary and Janet, released a statement through Thames Valley Police which said: “James was a wonderful man. He was beautiful, intelligent, honest and fun.

“He was the best son, brother, uncle and partner you could wish for. We are thankful for the memories he gave us all. We will never forget him and he will live in our hearts forever.”

They asked for their privacy to be respected and said they will not comment further at this time.

Holt School Co-headteachers Anne Kennedy and Katie Pearce also paid tribute to Mr Furlong, and described him as a “kind and gentle man” who had a “real sense of duty and cared for each and every one of our students”.

In a statement, they said: “He truly inspired everyone he taught through his passion for his subject and his dedication. He was determined that our students would develop a critical awareness of global issues and in doing so become active citizens and have a voice.

“As a Holt community, we all now need to absorb this sad news. Counsellors will be available for students and staff.

“Words cannot describe our shock and sadness at this time. Our thoughts are with his mum, dad, brother and family, and his friends and colleagues.

“He was a cherished colleague and he will be sadly missed.”

Lessons for Monday have been cancelled for all year groups, and counsellors will be onsite for students wishing to come to school and talk.

The local church will also be opened from 9am for people to go and light a candle in his memory.

Former pupils have praised the “inspirational” teacher, describing him as “the best”.

Jade Sirmon, a pupil at The Holt from 2012-2017, told the PA news agency: “He really was an incredible teacher.

“He was funny and kind and always made history fun and entertaining. History was always one of my favourite subjects and Mr Furlong always encouraged it.”

Keith Power, whose daughter attends the school, said: “He was a wonderful man. He was so helpful and supportive of my daughter. He had a real passion for history and teaching and was so caring of his pupils.

“It’s so senseless. So much hatred in the world right now. I fear for my kid’s futures.”

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson paid tribute to Mr Furlong.

He tweeted: “My thoughts are with the families and friends of those killed and injured in Reading. Very sad to hear that a teacher, James Furlong, was among the victims. Tributes paid by his colleagues reflect how much he will be missed.”

Responding to the news, Wokingham Labour tweeted: “Devastated to discover that James Furlong, one of the victims of the Reading stabbings, was a teacher at the Holt.

“His loss is a devastating blow to his family, colleagues, students, the wider Holt family and our whole community. Our thoughts are with them all.”

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OTHER NEWS

Medieval pope’s seal discovered in Shropshire

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