Gunnersbury Boys School Headteacher Loses His Battle With Cancer

Colleagues, parents and pupils mourn the loss of John Heffernan MA

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The Funeral Mass of John Heffernan MA will take place at Ealing Abbey on Wednesday 11th March

Those who wish to have their tributes to John Heffernan included here, are asked to email

Gunnersbury Catholic School for Boys The Ride Boston Manor Road Brentford Middlesex TW8 9LB

Headteacher of Gunnersbury Boys School John Heffernan sadly lost his battle with cancer last night, Tuesday 3rd March.

Although he had been unwell for sometime, his passing has still come as a shock to his colleagues, pupils and other members of the community who invariably held him in high regard.

Carlo Sparanero, whose son attends Gunnersbury School said, “As a parent I can only say that I am so saddened by his death, really mourning the loss.

“He was such an outstanding Headmaster. He is without question one of the main reasons my wife Jenny and I decided to send our son Raphael to Gunnersbury Catholic School.

“He was so inspirational and such a positive influence on everyone. He always seemed to have time to listen to what people had to say, whatever it was. He truly followed the school motto ‘Ad Altiora’ (To Higher Things) in the way he pushed to raise the school’s standards when the easiest thing would’ve been for it to rest on its laurels and settle for mediocrity.

“I remember when we came to the school’s open day and were struck by his speech when he pointed out how he also wished to nurture in the boys a profound respect for women.

“A fine example of what a Headmaster can be and can achieve for a school. Our deepest condolences and prayers go out to his family, friends, colleagues and children whose education he cared so much about. He will be greatly missed."

Fellow parent Annie Garfoot added, "He was an inspirational leader and engendered respect and admiration from pupils, teachers and parents alike. His loss is a great loss to the community."

Monsignor James Curry said, "John was a fine teacher and inspirational head. His commitment to his faith and the pupils entrusted to his care, was admired, not only by those who worked with him, but also by the community at large. His work at Gunnersbury boy’s school exemplified the best of Catholic Education. With his death we have lost not only a highly respected leader in the field of Education but a man of great integrity."

Following their most recent visit, Ofsted inspectors reported that “the headteacher has nurtured a strong and vibrant leadership team which has successfully ensured that students achieve high academic standards whilst contributing responsibly to the life of the community” adding that his leadership of the school was ‘outstanding’.

Gunnersbury is a Voluntary Aided School Comprehensive School for Catholic boys with a motto 'Ad Altiora' - ‘To Higher Things.’ The school was founded in 1919 by Fr William Roche, became a Voluntary Aided Grammar School in 1932, took its first comprehensive intake in 1972, became Grant Maintained in April 1993 and returned to Voluntary Aided in September 1999. It was designated a Science Specialist School in September 2003.

Tributes To John Heffernan MA:

Cllr Ruth Cadbury "Brentford Ward "I was deeply saddened to hear of John's passing. I have represented the area that includes Gunnersbury School for many years and was honoured to attend events there and be shown round by John as he explained the schools' values and aspirations. He was an inspirational and driven Head who has taken Gunnersbury School, its staff and students, to great places. He was also intensely caring and approachable. My thoughts and sympathy go to his family, his colleagues and his students."

Michal McSperrin-Kossak " My heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with the Heffernan family as well as all those connected to Gunnersbury. I had the immense privilege and honour to be Head Boy at the school, and despite my ill-health, John Heffernan gave me the support, encouragement and confidence to overcome it and become the person I am today.

"I remember so many occasions speaking with him and discussing all manner of things. He knew me and my mother very well as she is a local primary school Headteacher. She also wishes to pass on the thoughts and prayers of all those at her school. An inspirational Headteacher and individual. It is very rare these days to see someone work at the same school any more than 5 years, and so the fact that he spent over 2 decades at Gunnersbury is a true testament to his never ending desire to continually "Ad Altiora".

"Sincere condolences from the Smyth family, he was an inspiration to my son who attended Gunnersbury Boys School, he will be sadly missed."

Jan Tellick "I am the LEA Governor at Gunnersbury School and as such have known John for over 7 years. He was a truly inspirational leader of his pupils, staff and colleagues and dedicated to helping all achieve their best. I never heard him raise his voice or show impatience - everyone admired and respected him. He will be sorely missed by all."


March 10, 2009