Tributes: Bryan Hughes

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12th Mar 2021


HEADTEACHER 1978 ~ 1997

It is with sadness that we have lost a dear friend and colleague.   Bryan was truly an inspiration to all who knew him; he was very much respected by staff, pupils and the wider community, and shaped the lives of many people and will be greatly missed.

Bryan was warm, witty, wise and Welsh! G Sims

Bryan Hughes was a fabulous Head. He joined the school when I was in the Sixth Form and gave me my first (and only!) job in '83. He was, understandably, "old school": never forgot the classroom he had come from, had an amazing ability to learn and use the names of students and staff, and was a wonderful supporter of Music in particular. He commanded respect from all in his sphere whilst being kind and friendly. Like many, many others I am blessed to have known him.                          

C Wakelin

Val and I had 20 years under the headship of Bryan Hughes. A gentleman, an excellent head teacher who always found time for all staff and students. He has had a massive impact on the development of de Ferrers into the successful educational facility it is today. Stuart Briggs

I worked with Bryan for all of his time at Wulfric and de Ferrers schools. He was an exceptional leader recognising and using the strengths of individuals. He was well liked and respected by all and his every action showed how he cared for pupils and colleagues. The school and the people in it were fortunate to have his foresight through what were sometimes challenging changes. He will be greatly missed.
Dave Reedy.

Bryan Hughes was my first headteacher and a true inspiration. He always had time for me and was encouraging and caring. He valued hard work and commitment and I thrived under his guidance. A truly lovely, amazing man. Judith Hancock.

Bryan Hughes. A great headteacher and a marvellous person. Always courageous and uncompromising in upholding the high standards and values he believed in, but ready to listen and to engage in exchanges of ideas. Above all he made staff and students feel valued and gave encouragement to bring out the best in the people he worked with. Bryan was wonderful company. Always worth listening to and full of wit and humour. I will miss his friendship. John Read

Mr Hughes gave me my first job at De Ferrers, supported me when the authorities were trying to cut down on staff and as I was one of the newest appointed, my position was always on the line; however Mr Hughes would always tell me, privately, I had nothing to fear, he would protect my position. And this he did, consistently with all his staff and students. I shall always remember (sat at the desk in what was the language lab on the ground floor) seeing him run into his big old Sierra and drive, with tyres almost screeching, to chase off someone on a bike who had turned up to confront a student. He was fearless and very direct when it was a question of protecting his students and staff! Everyone, parents in particular and students, had much respect for Mr Hughes. His genuine interest for people, his curiosity in all things meant we all sought and enjoyed his company.


I know many people, and many families will miss him.

Bernadette Otway

Mr Hughes was my headteacher in the nineties and he was very influential to my career and professional development. He was not only a well-liked and respected leader but was friendly and approachable. My fondest memory was when I was working late one evening in the hall setting up some lights for an upcoming show he came out of his office with a few beers for me - perhaps not a good idea with me working on ladders but very appreciative.


So sad to hear of his passing away - a great bloke.

Dave Hancock

Bryan leaves a legacy of positive experiences for everyone who knew him, firstly at Wulfric and later at de Ferrers, both staff and students. Bryan had a passion for his role of head teacher, and it was this passion and hard work which led him to become a wonderful leader.


Bryan built the sort of relationships which brought people together.  He was so good at building relationships.  He always took the time to know his staff and their families.  He would know their names and he would show interest in what and how they were doing.


Students respected him and he respected them. The recognition he received with the award of the MBE was so well deserved, and he was rightly proud!  He made positive changes throughout his tenure and he thus made Wulfric and later de Ferrers a very successful school. He always sought to develop the staff he worked with because he knew they would be better as a result.


He will be missed, he was a good person who cared about others, and it was an honour to serve under him. He was a proud Welshman who loved his rugby and cricket, and the Monday assembly after a Welsh victory over England was always a special one!  He remained a friend long after his retirement and it was always a delight to meet up with him at our regular monthly get togethers, which were suspended by the COVID lockdowns. Sadly. We will not see him at our next one.Steve Edwards.

Bryan was warm, witty, wise and Welsh - an irresistible combination!


He was like a father to the school, every decision he made had the best interests of the students and staff at its heart. His educational philosophy embraced the importance of all subjects, and  he wholeheartedly encouraged and supported the ‘enrichment’ / extra curricular subjects - Music, PE and Drama.


Bryan will be remembered by those who knew him as, not only an outstanding headteacher, but also as a great character and personality. Memories of Bryan and his time at Wulfric / de Ferrers will survive the test of time.
Rest in peace Bryan.

Gerwyn Sims

As a teacher one could look on Bryan as 'A Man for all Subjects' who managed to maintain a well balanced curriculum catering for all. Ambitious for students, staff and all things Welsh!  


Apart from a professional, there was a 'friend and foe relationship' between us as over the years Bryan received a number of gifts from me, usually after England v Wales rugby matches all of which he graciously accepted,  

Daffodil bulbs for the Renaissance of 'Welsh Spirit in Spring' following an English win.    


A hand carved wooden spoon in memory of Wales gaining last place in the Championship left on his desk on Monday morning. He later remarked 'It must have taken all weekend to make.’ My reply ' No sir, I carved it weeks ago in preparation.'


Wales managed to claim the same position the following year Bryan received a presentation box containing a packet of sawdust, a tube of glue and instructions on  ' How to make your own Wooden Spoon '  


Latterly Bryan took great pleasure in meeting with retired colleagues at The Spread Eagle, which was initially three members of the Art Dept. but now is often over a dozen, his great regret has been that the 'Lockdown' has prevented continuation as he so enjoyed the company.  


A Life well lived . A Work completed.

G Evanson

We remember Bryan as a people oriented person and headmaster. He knew how to get the best from everybody and offered support to all. He had the great skill of remembering everybody’s names after a single meeting and would always ask after family by name. 


In our family he will be fondly remembered for appearing on our doorstep after his trip to New Zealand with a newspaper he had saved, because our daughter had made headlines in New Zealand while he was there!
Kevin and Liz Murphy

I first met Bryan during the amalgamation of three schools. I was teaching at the Forest of Needwood High School and there was considerable concern as to what might happen. Would it be a takeover, would we lose our jobs, etc.? Bryan did much to allay our suspicions. He was approachable, visited regularly, kept us informed, assured us that he wanted the best for all staff and pupils and listened to our concerns. He managed to amalgamate the strengths of both Wulfric and the Forest in the new De Ferrers.


I always felt that he was interested in his staff and the progress of the pupils. He would support his staff in public even if he had to have words with them later in private. If he disagreed with you he would say so, but he would listen to your point of view and often let you try things out. Once he was convinced that it worked he left you alone to get on with things. Long after he retired he spoke warmly of pupils` successes and of his staff. The coffee pot was always on in his office and, once he had given up smoking, it was always a pleasure to join him there for our weekly meetings.


He was a people person and, though busy, always found time to be about the school and yard, to talk to staff and pupils. He enjoyed teaching and insisted on being on the timetable, even if, of necessity, in a limited way. This helped him keep his ‘finger on the pulse’.


While he was keen for the school to produce good academic results, he was also concerned for the broader aspects of education. He followed the sporting successes or otherwise of the school teams, he supported the music department`s concerts and competitions and was delighted when the wind band won the Schools` Music Festival at the Albert Hall, he encouraged the continuation of the Senior Citizens` Christmas party, which proved a huge success, and generally encouraged staff and pupils to participate.


After he retired he continued to support, and participate in, the many groups to which he belonged. He met former colleagues for lunches, which he enjoyed for the company alone, and he often reminisced with pleasure about his life in education, the friends and acquaintances that he had made and the experiences that life had given him. During our COVID lockdown he constantly wanted to know how soon such lunches and social gatherings could resume. He had a good sense of humour too and enjoyed a laugh with the rest of us at an amusing story or joke.


While being a firm leader and an astute administrator, he was a compassionate and caring person. He had been brought up to attend his local Welsh chapel, but he once confided that his faith had been badly shaken by the Aberfan tragedy, an event that he felt deeply. He had been a football referee, officiating in national league matches and would regale listeners with anecdotes of his mistakes and the characters that he met. He loved his sport, had played cricket and was an avid supporter of the Welsh rugby team. It was perhaps of some comfort to him that he lived to see them win the Triple Crown this year. He continued to follow football and the fortunes of the Wrexham club in particular. He enjoyed travel, France and its wines in particular, but was always interested in the travels of others; in my case to some of the mountain ranges of the world. He wanted to hear about the people, the geography and their geology. I once tested him with a rock that had come from Ascension Island; though he didn`t know it. He quickly identified it as Obsidian.


He was a good person, colleague, boss and good company. He will be missed by a great number of people.

Dave Mountfort

I’m sorry and very sad to hear about Bryan passing away.  

He was one of the kindest and most genuine leaders I have had the privilege of working with. 


The support of his students and staff was superb and the advice he gave to me (personally) was invaluable, and I carried it with me throughout my career.   His advice to me was - follow your heart and always consider the impact you make on people around you.


There was some further advice he passed on to me that I dare not share!  His sense of humour was amazing!

Kev Lycett

Bryan was one of the best, demonstrated by his qualities as a leader, manager, organiser.


Always approachable, firm but fair, a true professional, 

Bryan was a fine role model for his staff, students and the community at large.


I feel privileged to have worked with him.

Noreen Wyatt.

Sadly, last Christmas the usual seasonal card from Bryan never did arrive. It was his custom to cover the district with a blizzard of Christmas cards, each one bearing a personal greeting, beautifully inscribed with his flourishing signature, written, of course, in fountain pen ink. People really mattered to Bryan. His personal, caring approach endeared you to a unique and remarkable man. Bryan Hughes will be sadly missed by a considerable population of grateful colleagues, students and friends. When in the great man’s company you soon became aware you were in the presence of a special person. Upon meeting at occasional social get-togethers, Bryan usually greeted you by first asking about the well-being of the family. When it was my turn, he never failed to accurately name each daughter in turn, though they left almost 30 years ago. You just knew his interest was genuine – an exchange that went far beyond polite conversation. Bryan’s approach to education was crucially child-centred. Meeting the needs of all pupils in the best possible way was at the heart of everything he did. His interest in the careers of former pupils demonstrated his deeply curious and concerned nature. An extraordinary percentage of colleagues were pleased to be teaching in the same school their sons and daughters were learning in. Together we flourished in the exciting environment at de Ferrers. The all round experience gave students a great start in life, and left us with so many good things to look back on.


Much of the school’s extraordinary success was due Mr Hughes’s ability to build high-functioning teams at every level, right across the vast school. With these powerhouses in place, remarkable things were being achieved through curricular and extra-curricular activities. Considerable sporting successes were achieved in many fields and the performing arts thrived on stage and excelled in the concert hall. Music making of a sublime quality took the impressive Wind Band and Brass Band to the National Festival of Music for Youth. The Wind Band won their section twice and received invitations to perform at the prestigious Schools’ Prom in the Albert Hall in 1990 and 1992. Outstanding achievements at a national level would prove to be a powerful attraction to parents and pupils alike. Success tends to rub off and the reputation of the whole school was rightly enhanced. The rising popularity of the de Ferrers brand attracted larger numbers and the school grew larger still. 


Being the ideal figurehead himself, Mr Hughes was particularly successful at promoting the good name of the school. Following the amalgamation of Wulfric High School with the Forest of Needwood High School, the traditional evening Christmas Carol Service at St John’s Church, Horninglow, was expanded to embrace some churches within the enlarged catchment: St Mary’s Priory Church, Tutbury; St Mary’s Church, Rolleston and St Mary‘s Church, Stretton. So, for a number of years, two Carol Services were performed: the second always at St John’s, with the first being in a village church, by rotation. Making arrangements for the transportation of all the paraphernalia and people, a logistical nightmare, was always accomplished in style – a tribute to all those involved. As usual, the Carol Services were beautifully constructed and superbly performed. They worked so well on different levels: they showcased an abundance of emerging talent, linked de Ferrers students with local communities and showed that the school cared enough to reach out to the wider community.


Mr Hughes was a passionate and deeply committed Headmaster. He had little time for those who appeared to make little or no effort.  So, I was not too surprised when less than enthusiastic hymn singing, during a Monday morning assembly, caused him to eventually boil over, suddenly stopping in his tracks and, while pointing an accusing finger, exclaimed: “You lot sing like England play rugby!”  At the time he was correct. The Saturday before, a talented England squad had been thoroughly defeated by a passionate Welsh team, inspired by a charismatic captain.  The analogy was too obvious to miss.


Bryan’s achievements are considerable; not least amongst them was his charismatic handling of two amalgamations. He was the silver lining to those gloomy events. What I particularly liked about Bryan was his humanity, passion and total commitment. One extraordinary measure of the man is the number of his former staff and colleagues who first remember Bryan as a friend before thinking of him as the truly great and much respected Headmaster he was – one of the last. How thankful we are for the life of Bryan. 


May he Rest in Peace 


Our thoughts and prayers are with Bryan’s family and friends at this sad time.

John Phillips

Bryan Hughes was far and away the best headmaster I served under. He was, as others have commented, much more than a mere administrator or manager, stuck behind a desk, but a thorough, efficient and caring leader. He was involved with his staff and pupils, with an encyclopaedic memory for names, and a willingness to get involved in the class room. And personally, from close contact with him in his earliest days in Burton, before he found a permanent home, to my time working closely with him as a deputy head, I always found him a good, interested friend with whom I could always share relaxed good humour – such as on the afternoon in his office, back in 1981, when the two of us cheered Ian Botham’s astonishing innings, which brought victory in the Headingley test match – and had a cup of his famous coffee! 


In many ways Bryan was, I suspect, one of a dying breed!

David Jackson

As a parent whose son was at de Ferrers during Bryan’s stewardship we can only say, and have said on many occasions how lucky we were to have such an accessible head, Bryan new the children’s names and even recognised their parents.He was a great supporter of all schools activities notably the school band, and was also prepared to muck in standing in Rolleston Brook during the annual duck race. 


Bryan’s leadership and style was also reflected in the teaching staff, which together made a very successful team.


Our son was deeply saddened by the news and has since contacted his school friends to inform them. I guess whilst at school you do not realise how fortunate you are , but he certainly has done since.

Ian & Chris Tyson