School in shock

Police outside Airy Hill school on Monday morning''w130701c
Police outside Airy Hill school on Monday morning''w130701c

A PRIMARY school has been left in shock and mourning after the caretaker was found dead by staff on Monday morning.

The body of Paul Gale (53) was discovered inside Airy Hill School by staff opening up the building.

Police taped off the scene and children were sent home but officers say they are not treating the death as suspicious and are not looking for anyone else in connection with the death.

Headteacher Jim Lidgley praised his staff for the way in which they had handled the situation: “It was a complete shock to us all and his family.

“Staff are deeply upset and shocked but one of the strengths of the school is the way the staff have responded and supported each other in what are very difficult times.”

An inquest into Mr Gale’s death has been open and adjourned.

The school was closed on Tuesday while specialist teams were drafted in to provide counselling, support and guidance for teachers and staff who have been left “deeply upset” by the tragedy.

A special assembly with songs and prayers in memory of Mr Gale was conducted on Wednesday morning and floral tributes have been left near the school entrance.

Mr Lidgley added: “Their professionalism is what has enabled the school to re-open and carry on in as normal a way as possible for the children which is crucial.

“It is not something you can be trained to deal with but the support we have received has been outstanding.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his mum and family but it has affected an awful lot of people and the support and guidance will be on-going for as long as is necessary.”

He paid tribute to Mr Gale who had been the caretaker for six years and “loved his job and was highly dedicated”.

He said: “He was a highly valued member and respected member of the school team who would always go out of his way to help and do anything for anybody.

“He was a true gentleman, nothing was too much trouble for him.

“The community use of the school with karate, Benson Stage Academy and brownies would not have been possible without his help.

“He was always there to set up, lock up at the end of the day and at weekends for groups.

“He will be greatly missed by everyone in the school community.”

The school is planning to create a memory book that will be presented to Mr Gale’s family and later in the year a maple tree, which was his favourite, will be planted in his memory at a special ceremony which his family will also be invited to.

A spokesperson for North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) said: “Our thoughts are with the family of Mr Gale at this very difficult time.

“A county council support team spent Tuesday morning talking with all staff at Airy Hill community primary school and preparing them for the return of children to the school this morning and for the school assembly.

“Senior staff will remain in the school for the rest of this week to support staff, families and children through this tragedy and will provide on-going support to anyone in the school community that has been particularly affected.”