Dereham Neatherd pupils and colleagues shocked by sudden loss of popular teacher

Hundreds of tributes have flooded in for a science teacher who passed away just days after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Pupils and colleagues have spoken fondly of Mike Cripps' enthusiasm for his subject, inspirational lessons, and his ability to keep his students laughing.

The 52-year-old passed away peacefully during the night on Saturday. He had been head of science at Dereham's Neatherd High School for 10 years after joining from Framingham Earl High in September 2001.

The teacher had been feeling unwell for a number of months and had been off work for the final half of the summer term.

But it was not until his birthday last week when he was finally diagnosed with advanced and terminal cancer.

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Since news of his death emerged, a Facebook page has been set up in memory of Mr Cripps where hundreds of past and present pupils posted tributes within just a few hours.

Samuel Bean said: 'Mr Cripps – a man who supplied us with endless laughs and knowledge, on just about any subject. A man who not only was incredibly interesting, but genuinely interested and caring for his students and their futures.'

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Last night, Peter Devonish, Neatherd High headteacher, described the teacher as an 'absolute enthusiast for his subject' and said staff were 'shocked by the suddenness of his passing'. He added: 'He was greatly respected by staff and students alike. The hundreds of comments on a Facebook page set up in his memory are testament to that. He contributed outside the school to the wider scientific community and we will all miss him.

'Our thoughts are with his sister, Suzanne, and his nephew at this incredibly difficult time.'

Sandra Manning, acting head of science, who, along with colleague Chris Simmonds, was with Mr Cripps during his last days, said: 'Anyone who has had Mike Cripps touch their life will never forget him.'

Mr Cripps, who lived in Wymondham, was a keen astronomer who had visited the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and worked with Nasa astronauts and scientists in order to make his classes exciting for students.

Leaving a tribute on Facebook, pupil Hollie Brown said: 'A really lovely human being, dedicated to his job and seemed to genuinely love working with children. He inspired many with his love of space and his astronomy club, which I think many of us will remember him for.

'It is so heartbreaking to lose such an inspirational teacher.'

Nick Johnson added: 'You were a true inspiration, Sir. We all know you're now in the place you loved the most – among the stars, where you'll shine bright forever more.'

Mr Devonish said staff had been preparing for Mr Cripps's return to school in September when he received the shock diagnosis and was told he had just days to live.

The headteacher said his colleague, and fellow scientist, was known for his creativity – not only in the experiments he designed for pupils, but also when writing poetry.

Mr Cripps also organised the school's annual science fair.

Mr Devonish added: 'I know that students and staff will want to pay their respects and celebrate Mike's life and his work in some way when we return from the summer holiday in September.'

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