COLLEAGUES have paid tribute to a former headteacher who led the governor support service for schools in County Durham.

Harry Wills, 59, of Barnard Castle, died during a skiing holiday to Austria.

He had devoted his working life to education, starting in the classroom at Sacriston Junior School, in September 1965, before moving to Belmont CE Junior School two years later and working as deputy head at Pittington Junior School from 1974 to 1977.

Between 1977 he was head at Consett Grove Junior Mixed and Infant, Aycliffe Village Primary and Sugar Hill, in Newton Aycliffe, before accepting secondment as governor training co-ordinator and holding the post full-time from 1992 to 1996 with just a secretary for support.

In 1996 he was appointed senior schools officer in the county's School and Governor Support Service and in January 1999 he was promoted to head of the service.

He built the unit into a nationally recognised service, working to help not only governors and schools in Durham but throughout the country.

Durham's director of education, Keith Mitchell, said Mr Wills worked ceaselessly to ensure the highest standards possible and was proud when the service became the first in the country to achieve the BS EN ISO 9002 accreditation.

He said: "Harry was a terrific colleague and absolute gentleman.

"He was a man who valued relationships and loved working with people. His personal warmth, professionalism and commitment were reciprocated by all who had the privilege of working with him

"All of us will miss his friendship, his qualities and expertise and the sheer enjoyment of a person who was always reliable, supportive, enthusiastic and full of ideas."

A funeral service will be held on Friday, at 1.30pm, at Barnard Castle Methodist Church.