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.”