TRIBUTES have been paid to a popular primary school headteacher who devoted his life to inspiring children to “be the best they could be”.

The family of Neil Hedworth described his dedication to young people as they thanked his former pupils and colleagues for their support following his sudden death.

They spoke out after an inquest into Mr Hedworth’s death opened earlier this month and found that the 48-year-old grandfather had died in April after taking fentanyl and gabapentin, drugs prescribed to treat an existing illness.

Annette and Colin Hedworth said they had been incredibly moved by an outpouring of support from Harrogate’s Woodfield Community Primary School, where a tree was recently planted in Mr Hedworth’s memory.

Credited for leaving a lasting impression on his young charges, is much missed by children and staff at the school, where he had taught for sixteen months.

Prior to taking up his role there, he was head of school at Darlington’s Heathfield Primary, where he worked for 16 years.

A music degree reflected his lifelong passion for music, which saw him appointed director of music for a number of years at St Cuthbert’s Church, where a celebration of his life took place in June.

Mr Hedworth’s daughter, Jessica, said he had been a “one of a kind” parent to her and sibling, Joe, adding: “I have never met such a family oriented man, he was somebody that only ever did things with his children’s best interests at heart.

“He would forever go without so Joe and I had what we wanted – he has left a huge hole behind and not a day goes by where we don’t think about him.”

His parents said they could not have been prouder of their son as they remembered a kind and good natured man who always tried to help others and who would fill their family home with music.

Despite his long struggle with the rare movement disorder myoclonic dystonia syndrome, Mr Hedworth refused to give up his career, commuting every day from his Darlington home to Harrogate.

Mr Hedworth said: “He had a favourite saying and that was that he tried to be the best that he could be.

“That’s what he tried to instil in the children, he cared about their education and always wanted to bring out the best in them.”

Mrs Hedworth added: “It’s comforting to us to have received messages from his pupils and their families saying that their children want to be just like him.

“He was a good man and we know just how hard he worked to ensure young people got a good education so that they too could become the best they could be – he will be remembered for that.”