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Tributes left at The Victory Academy in Chatham for teacher who died in car crash

A memorial has been created at The Victory Academy to remember a young teacher who died in an accident.

Sam Rooks, 26, was killed in a crash in Maidstone Road, Rochester, on Friday afternoon.

Tributes left for Sam Rooks at Victory Academy in Chatham. Pictures: Thinking Schools Academy Trust
Tributes left for Sam Rooks at Victory Academy in Chatham. Pictures: Thinking Schools Academy Trust

The Victory Academy cancelled lessons yesterday to allow the community to mourn his death but set up an area for staff and pupils to pay their respects.

Five books of condolences were filled by people sharing their memories and a special area on the school grounds was made available for people to lay flowers.

Mandy Gage, director of education at the Thinking Schools Academy Trust, which runs The Victory Academy in Chatham, said: “Yesterday was extremely sad but also uplifting.

"Hundreds of people – students, staff and our wider community – have come together at school to remember and celebrate Sam. The number of people who have wanted to be here today to pay their respects underlines just how highly he was thought of, and always will be thought of.

“There have been a lot of tears but also a lot of laughter – as his family here today have said, Sam would have wanted us to remember him and smile, and their strength and bravery today has been inspiring.

Staff and pupils left tributes for the well-liked teacher. Pictures: Thinking Schools Academy Trust
Staff and pupils left tributes for the well-liked teacher. Pictures: Thinking Schools Academy Trust

“The memorial we set up is covered with flowers, letters and notes and we have had to open five books of condolence because so many people have come today. In the coming weeks, we will plan for how we can best make a lasting tribute to Sam, so that the positive effect he had on us all at The Victory Academy is commemorated.”

Other members of staff said he "didn't have a bad bone in his body" and that "he genuinely believed that every child mattered".

Another added: "At 26 he was one of the greatest teachers I had ever seen and his love of teaching and his desire to improve the life chances of all our young people was inspiring.

"The idea that we won’t see him in his classroom, in our corridors or in our courtyard absolutely boggles the mind. He was part of the fabric of our school and the respect he received from all of our young people was a credit to the amazing person he was."

Mr Rooks had previously worked at the Oasis Academy in the Isle of Sheppey having got his PCGE at Canterbury Christ Church University.

Bunches of flowers and cards were placed on the school grounds. Pictures: Thinking Schools Academy Trust
Bunches of flowers and cards were placed on the school grounds. Pictures: Thinking Schools Academy Trust

Oasis Academy principal Tina Lee also paid tribute to him, saying: "Mr Rooks was passionate, enthusiastic and an inspiration to the teaching profession from the moment he joined the academy through the Teach First programme in September 2016.

"He was absolutely hooked on making a difference to young people’s lives and the academy is incredibly proud that he started his teaching journey with us.

"His love of teaching English to the students at Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey was infectious and had a lasting impact on the those who sat in front of him. Students in his classes enjoyed learning and making progress. They worked hard to improve with a love of reading in the lower school and demonstrated the tenacity and resilience to use his feedback and advice to develop their writing in later years.

"Sam moved from the academy after his two year training period and left in his words ‘to gain experience in a variety of different schools while I develop to one day become a head teacher’.

"The staff and students who worked with Mr Rooks at the academy are incredibly saddened to hear about a great loss of life.

"Students have been in communication with staff at the academy, who will provide time and counsel for those who may need further support at this difficult time."

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