Family pay tribute to former Suffolk headteacher who has passed away

Former Great Cornard Upper school headteacher, Douglas Pickford has passed away 

Former Great Cornard Upper school headteacher, Douglas Pickford has passed away - Credit: Supplied by the family

The founding headteacher of a Suffolk secondary school has died.

Douglas Pickford was the very first headteacher of Great Cornard Upper School (now Thomas Gainsborough School) when it opened in 1973. 

When the school first opened it had around 430 pupils but during the years of Mr Pickford's leadership the school grew to over 1,000, with a sixth form of more than 300 students. 

Mr Pickford helped the school become very community focused with the opening of a public sports hall, adult education programme, community swimming pool, the Prospect Theatre and the library. 

The headteacher was awarded an OBE in 1988 for his involvement in the design and piloting of the Suffolk Curriculum, which was later adopted throughout the country as the national curriculum.

In 1991, students, staff and parents proudly celebrated GCUS being named as one of the best 300 Good State Schools in the country.

Duncan Grahame, the Suffolk County Education Officer at the time, described GCUS as "the Jewel in the Suffolk Crown".

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After 22 successful years as a headteacher Mr Pickford retired in 1995 but continued working for Suffolk County Council in an advisory capacity and he was also very interested to meet or hear of the successes of his former pupils. 

Mr Pickford's family said that in his spare time, he enjoyed music and was a talented pianist and organist, and as a passionate Manchester Unites supporter, he was always trying to recruit extra fans from his students. 

The family added that in his retirement he enjoyed playing golf and travelling. 

Out of school he was an established member of Sudbury Rotary Club including standing as its President. For many years he was organist and choirmaster at Bures St Mary Church.

After retiring he became a volunteer advisor for the Citizens Advice Bureau in Halstead.

In 2018 he and his wife Esme moved to Derbyshire to be nearer their family. Despite his deteriorating mobility he involved himself in musical events, Probus and supported the unemployed to gain skills to get work.

He died on October 12 after a short stay in hospital and is survived by his wife Esme, daughter Sally, son Mark and four grandchildren.