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Family of teacher who died with COVID-19 say school staff must be ‘priority’ for vaccine

Written by on 22/01/2021

The grieving family of an “inspirational” teacher who died with COVID-19 say all teaching staff should be vaccinated “as a priority” before they return to classrooms.

Paul Hilditch, 55, had been a teacher in the North East all his working life.

His daughter, Camille, says the family are “completely shocked” by his sudden death just two days after Christmas.

Paul Hilditch on Scafell Pike in November, only a few weeks before he died
Image: Paul Hilditch on Scafell Pike in November, only a few weeks before he died

“My dad was just a larger than life character, who made the most out of every day. Very easy to talk to, and you could open up to him,” said Camille.

Paul taught engineering at Conyners School on Teesside. He was popular and enthusiastic, with a passion for teaching. He had been desperate to return to school after the first lockdown.

“He was so kind and patient,” Camille said. “He used to come home and say things like ‘best lesson ever today’. He inspired a lot of people to go to university.”

Paul was fit and healthy and happiest outdoors. He climbed Scafell Pike, England’s highest peak, in November, just weeks before his death.

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He contracted COVID-19 at the start of December. It is not known where he was infected.

Camille, who lived with her dad, also tested positive. But while she got better, Paul’s condition slowly deteriorated, and he was eventually admitted to hospital.

Paul and Camille Hilditch
Image: Camille says her dad was very easy to talk to

Even then, Camille says, she always thought he would pull through.

“He was always really positive, even joking – trying to make it a bit light-hearted, saying ‘I’ll be out for Christmas’, and we all expected that,” she said.

Paul died in the early hours of 27 December, and his funeral took place on 18 January.

His family cannot believe he has gone. “We’re still in complete shock really – all our family, because even in the darkest hours of his treatment, you never expected that would happen to such a healthy, fit person.”

Paul and Camille Hilditch
Image: Paul was a ‘larger than life character’, Camille says

Camille says she thinks people have not taken the risks teachers face in the classroom seriously, and believes they should be on the vaccine priority list.

“If they’re going to send them into schools, you know, they need to be vaccinated. I personally think they shouldn’t be back until they’ve been vaccinated.”

Paul had plans for his future: he had wanted to buy a house in the Durham countryside, where he could continue his love of walking and hiking.

Paul and Camille Hilditch
Image: Camille says the family is in ‘complete shock’

For now, his family are taking strength from his energetic love of life.

Camille says her dad’s death has left a heart-breaking gap in their lives, however.

She said: “My sister’s getting married next year and she’s already said ‘who’s going to walk me down the aisle now’.

“I think it will go on forever, the grieving, when you go through these big, big moments in life, and it’ll really hit home.

“You know that he’s not there anymore.”

 Sky News

© Sky News 2020

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