Paul Chambers: Tribute to 'truly inspirational' Royal High School teacher who died after cancer battle

Staff, pupils and parents at an Edinburgh school are mourning the loss of a “truly inspirational” teacher who passed away at the weekend two years after being diagnosed with cancer.

By Scott McCartney
Tuesday, 28th September 2021, 1:07 pm

Deputy head teacher Paul Chambers died at the weekend aged 48, leaving a wonderful legacy of passion for education at Royal High School.

Today, Royal High head Pauline Walker paid tribute to Paul, who she said refused to give in and remained positive throughout his treatment.

She said that despite his diagnosis in 2019, Paul had continued to remain socially active even in his final days.

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Paul Chambers will be sorely missed by all who knew him.

Pauline said: “He had let us know he was within his last few weeks.

“But he was an absolute inspiration right to the end as he was so strong and just kept going.

"He was still arranging visitors, and meeting people for coffee, and it felt like he would just keep going.

"He was so full of life. He faced cancer with absolute determination.”

A former travel journalist turned English teacher, Paul joined Royal High as deputy head in 2013, and brought a wealth of worldly-experience that really clicked with pupils and staff alike.

Pauline said: “Paul was one of the most generous people we’re ever known.

“He was larger than life, full of knowledge and stories. He had travelled the world and had so much to give as he had that lived experience that pupils responded so well to.

"He was incredibly funny and a lot of fun to be around. He really didn’t have a bad bone in his body, one of those people who was just there to help make things better.

"He was our deputy in charge of pupil support – he was responsible for those who were most vulnerable. They responded to him so well, as did the parents.

“He was always available for the kids, even when he was busy – he always made time, I think that’s why he was so popular with staff and pupils. Wherever he went he always had a wee trail of kids because he was always looking after people who had issues.

“He was so generous with his time, even helping new staff starting out in their careers.”

During his illness he spent time raising awareness and money for Maggies, with staff and pupils all getting involved.

Paul was integral in bringing a number of new projects to life, which have flourished and grown.

He set up a partnership with a school in Hong Kong, which saw multiple trips back and forth for pupils as new friendships were forged across the globe.

Paul’s legacy at Royal High School is one of great pride, and Pauline said that new projects which Paul had pioneered were now being continued by other staff to enrich the education of the children.

Pauline added: “He had a great imagination about how to help young people be successful in school. He’d always come to me with projects and ideas.

"He set up an inclusive Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme to get more people of colour involved. He worked out ways to get more people through the Duke of Edinburgh so it would help them on their university applications.

"He was a bit of a whirlwind, always up to something. Well-read, passionate about education, and could really bring it to life for the pupils. In the time that he was here, he revolutionised the culture at the school. His successors have picked up where he started things off. He inspired us all. To be able to leave that legacy behind just shows how incredible he was.

"He was positive right to the end. He never gave up. It was more about looking out for everybody else and his family.

“When we were all feeling bad he just wouldn’t have it, and he reminded us to be positive and that this is the time we’ve got left.”

Royal High School held an assembly to mark Paul’s passing on Monday, and have ensured that mental health support is available to those who need it.The school also plans to hold a ‘Clap for Chambers’ event on Friday, where pupils and staff will cheer for 1 minute to honour his contribution to the lives of the pupils. Plans for a permanent memorial are currently being made.

Paul is survived by his wife Julia, and children Joel, Mia, and Daniel.

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