LOVING tributes have been paid to a headteacher and mother-of-two who has died at the age of 46.
The family of Sarah Pauline Welch, headteacher of Sacred Heart RC Primary School in Accrington, said she leaves a legacy of love and care that has touched the lives of the children she taught during a vibrant and passionate career.
Her mother Pamela said that it was this love of others, grounded in her Catholic faith, that defined her daughter’s approach. She said: “She loved children and she received love in return.”
Mrs Welch, who died suddenly but peacefully at home of a heart attack, leaves her two children Jonathan, 23, and Rachel, 21, along with her mother Pamela, wife of the late John Hans, and her brothers and sisters Joanna, Sophie, John-Paul, Jessica, Patrick and Sean.
Mrs Welch began her teaching career in Preston with periods spent at schools in Barnoldswick and Rawtenstall.
In 2013 she took up a post at Benjamin Hargreaves school in Accrington as deputy head, once again displaying her commitment and compassion for the students under her care, and in 2018 was seconded to Barrow VC Primary School, St Stephen’s CE Primary School, Preston, and St John’s Stonefold CE Primary School as acting headteacher in each school for a term.
In September 2019, she became acting head at Sacred Heart in Accrington.
The opportunity to take up a leadership role at a Catholic school was indeed a huge accolade for someone so committed to her faith.
Pamela said: “All of last year she had been acting head at Sacred Heart, a school where she felt great love for the children and staff.”
In October 2020, Mrs Welch was interviewed and her permanent appointment as headteacher was confirmed.
Her mother said: “She had only been head for a very short time and that’s the tragedy, as she had such great plans for the school.
“The very last thing that Sarah organised were four beautiful painted signs in the playground that had just been put up on display.
“These were to enhance and stretch the pupils’ vocabulary.”
The family were welcomed to the school to see the tributes that have been growing in the school grounds in memory of Sarah and admired the new signage.
Pamela added: “Our family are very grateful to Deborah Kenyon, the chair of governors for her compassion, kindness and care.
"We are also grateful to Father O’Brien, all the staff at the school and the board of governors for their support during this difficult time. Sarah was very much loved by everyone because she gave great love.”
Her sister Joanna said that these sentiments have been raised time and again as tributes have poured in to the family from children, their parents and from colleagues whose lives Mrs Welch had enriched.
She said: “All these messages have highlighted how Sarah’s positivity shone through. She wanted the best for everyone, her children, the parents of her children, everyone.”
(Published Lancashire Telegraph 21st January - Joe Harrigan)
In Memory of Mrs Sarah Welch
Dear governors, staff, pupils and parishioners,
‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest.
Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and
you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’
These are the words of Jesus proclaimed each year at the Mass of the Sacred
Heart. They are words not just recorded with ink and paper but the living words of
Jesus Christ that reach out to us from the Gospel. Words that burst out from the
page filled with God’s tenderness and mercy to console our hurting and broken
‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest.’
Jesus invites us to come to him with our overburdened hearts full of sadness at
this time for Mrs Sarah Welch, our parish Headteacher at Sacred Heart School,
whose unexpected death has shocked us all. Feelings of bewilderment, sorrow,
disbelief and numbness have all been experienced, I’m sure, in one way or
another since the tragic news broke. We are all beginning the journey of grief and
mourning that can be dark and lonely, however, I think Mrs Welch still has a
lesson to help us on this journey.
Sarah’s faith in Jesus was unashamedly public and shaped her vision for Sacred
Heart and the school community. The greatest lesson she taught was trying to live
the life of a disciple whose words, thoughts and actions echoed the beating heart
of Christ. Through her kindness, positivity, warmth, hope and genuine welcome to
all who crossed the door of school she truly lived the image of the Sacred Heart.
Let us follow Mrs Welch’s example and actively live as disciples heeding Jesus’
invitation to come to him and lay our sadness and sorrow before him. As he
promised in the Gospel to give rest to those hearts that came to him in faith so we
take comfort that he gives Sarah rest on her new journey with him.
O Sacred Heart of Jesus, Have mercy on us all.
O Sacred Heart of Jesus, Give rest to Sarah.
Please continue to pray for Mrs Welch as I’m sure she is continuing to pray for us.
If anybody would like to talk or say a prayer together then do not hesitate to
contact me at St. Mary’s presbytery.
Messages of Condolence Received
‘Our family would like to offer our condolences to the staff who have lost a colleague this last weekend. We were very shocked at the news of Mrs Welch's sudden death. May she rest peacefully in the knowledge that she was loved and valued.’
‘Mrs. Welsh, what can I say apart from I am truly devastated you are gone. You were always there to help with anything big or small. We were only talking days before you gained your angel wings, about how amazing things have been at the school since you have been there. I do not think anyone else was better for the job other than you. You got us through the first lockdown, you supported us as parents with home schooling our children, you sent out rewards to our children when they did well, you gave me a gift to thank me for my hard work, you were even interested in the activities and thing our children got up to out of school. You were always impressed with Tia’s dancing and wanted updates and picture on her. You were an utterly amazing person and I am so grateful for all you did for us as a family. Rip lots of love’
‘The news of the passing of our head-teacher Mrs Welch cam as an huge shock. I have worked as a governor with Sarah on Health and safety aspects and recently in preparing for the heating system upgrade. In everything that Sarah did the foremost in her mind was the wellbeing of her school family in their teaching, academic and spiritual life. Her commitment to the catholic life of our school and the inclusion of all the students from other faiths shone like a beam of light every day she was at school. Sarah will be sadly missed by all but the spirit of her love for our school will stay with us all.’ Anthony Flanagan Foundation Governor.
‘Sarah was a member of our Catholic Head Teachers cluster and a lovely lady. We are devastated and thinking of her family and school in our prayers. It's so tragic.’ Kind regards Caroline Boden Headteacher St Mary's Roman Catholic Primary School, Langho
‘Can I pass on our sincere condolences for Mrs Welch's family and to all of the school staff, what a shock to hear such sad news.’
‘Mrs Welch was a lovely kind headteacher and we will sadly miss her’
‘We are so sorry for your loss thinking about you all at this sad time’
‘I just want to say I’m very sorry to hear about Mrs Welch we all are thinking about her. Xx’
‘Oh no I am saddened and shocked by the news. Mrs Welch was kind and caring and we will really miss her. Our thoughts & prayers go out to her friends and family.’
‘I am too shocked with this news. I hope her soul rest in peace. She was an incredible headteacher and a great person.’
‘Thoughts are with you all XXX’
‘Hi to all in your school community’
‘Our thoughts and prayers are with you at this very sad time. If there is anything we can do to help, please let me know. Regards Bridget Parkinson Head teacher St Mary Magdalene's RC Primary School’
‘May I take this opportunity, on behalf of the Hyndburn Catholic Partnership, to extend our sincere condolences to the staff, the governors and the pupils on the passing of Sarah. The partnership group met yesterday (over Teams) and are all still reeling from the shocking news. Prayers were said together in memory of Sarah and lovely memories were shared. With our very best wishes’ The Hyndburn Catholic Partnership Group
Mr Xav Bowers – Mount Carmel RC High School
Mrs D Mulcock – SASJ
Mrs L Wolstenholme – St Mary’s Oswaldtwistle
Mrs C Kippax – St Oswald’s
Mr M Mashiter – St Mary’s Clayton-le-Moors
‘My prayers are with you all at this time.’ Mark Mackley Headteacher St Matthew’s Church of England Primary School
‘I'm so, so sorry to hear the sad and tragic news about Sarah, I can't believe it. Sending my thoughts and hugs to all the staff there at school.’ Lynsey Lewis Schools Finance Officer
‘I am just emailing to offer my sincerest condolences regarding your Head Teacher. It must be a terrible shock for you all. I am thinking of you all, at this exceptionally challenging time.’ Carolyn Maxwell Specialist Teacher/ Portage Teacher
I would like to take this opportunity to pass on our deepest condolences for your loss of Sarah from everyone at Aqualease. On the occasions when I have personally met Sarah, I could instantly recognise her passion for her school. She always loved what we did as a company and helped us in our earlier days of business with other schools too.
*Please note that the name have have been due to GDPR