Obituary - Lyndon Hesketh, 1953-2009

Lyndon Hesketh, a Hull technology adviser who boosted career opportunities for disadvantaged pupils by setting up school-business partnerships, has died at the age of 56.

Known widely as Lyn, he will be remembered by many Hull schools and businesses as a skilled intermediary, helping two very different sets of people to find common ground. Every teacher who offers visiting industry executives a cup of tea is proof of his legacy.

He combined his early career as a technology teacher in Merseyside with playing semi-professional football for local teams.

In 1995, he moved to Hull to take up the position of design and technology adviser for the authority.

Later, he became school effectiveness officer, working directly with schools in particularly challenging circumstances.

Aware that Hull had some of the poorest academic results in the country, he believed that its pupils should have as many opportunities as their counterparts in more privileged areas.

He was determined to offer them skills that would be valued by employers and to show them the range of career opportunities available to people with skills of this type.

To achieve this goal, he encouraged schools to deliver a range of vocational qualifications as well as more traditional academic courses.

He also set up a series of partnerships between schools and local industries. Business representatives gave talks in schools, pupils visited industry headquarters, and businesses helped to provide teachers with specialist knowledge.

Coming from a design and technology background, he was particularly keen to promote the range of careers available to pupils with a food technology qualification. Food technology, he said, was one of the better subjects to be involved with: he was always offered something to eat.

Hesketh also acted as a vital go-between, smoothing over any misunderstandings that might arise between schools and businesses, and helping them to see each other's point of view. For example, he pointed out to teachers that industry visitors might appreciate a cup of tea on arrival at school. It was the small things, he said, that made people feel valued.

Similarly, he would placate teachers when business representatives failed to turn up to meetings because of pressing alternative commitments.

In fact, this was a predicament he appreciated himself: those who worked with him were used to seeing him rush from one meeting to the next. And his weekends would regularly be spent ploughing through reports and statistics.

Between the meetings and the stats, however, he would retreat to his workshop - which he constructed on the side of his house - and build his own furniture. Those who saw his handiwork insisted it was of professional standard.

He also maintained a keen interest in sport, impressing colleagues by playing golf to a high standard despite doing virtually no practice. In retirement, he said, he hoped to join a golf club.

But it was not to be. In December, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He died less than a month later.

Many schools he worked with have been quick to express their sorrow and loss. The church was full for his funeral service.

For many he worked with, he will be remembered for his relentless belief that ability, not background, should determine a child's future. While many despaired of Hull's record of underachievement, he insisted that the city's pupils had every right to aim high - they simply needed to be given the right opportunities.

Lyn Hesketh is survived by his partner Sue, his children Kathryn and Jonathan, and his stepdaughter Sarah.

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