A “LEADING” figure in the English language teaching sector locally, nationally and internationally for more than 40 years, has died.

Simon Freeman made “seismic positive changes” to the teaching of English to international students in Bournemouth and travelled far and wide in a long and impactful career.

While known as Mr Freeman to different generations of students, for some he was known as a loving son, brother, husband, and dad.

Simon was born on July 26, 1953, in Carshalton, Surrey, to Margaret and John Freeman. He was the youngest in the family with older brothers Richard and Maurice and a sister Gay. He was the only child of his father John and the two had a joyous relationship, with family recalling John lying in the grass on the front lawn with a young Simon gazing up at him.

As his father was a squadron leader in the RAF, there were many family excursions to RAF displays and summer holidays in Devon and Cornwall.

Sadly, John died suddenly when Simon was only six years old. Growing up without a father deeply impacted Simon, who made it his mission to one day be the best dad he could be to his own children.

At 13, like his uncles and older brothers, Simon went to board at Ardingly College in Sussex.

His close friend James Monnington, who met Simon at the college, recalled: “Simon was a scholarship boy and was a year younger than me. He came into my year and probably was in the top set for everything.

“It was in racquet sports that Simon excelled – squash and tennis. He retained the passion for tennis all his life. I believe that he became school captain of tennis.”

Simon left Ardingly in December 1970 and went on to study Archaeology and Anthropology, as well as Anglo Saxon, Norse and Celtic history at Sidney Sussex College at the University of Cambridge from autumn 1971.

In 1974, Simon met a young student called Heather through mutual friends after Simon had finished his degree and moved to York where Heather was based. They married in 1978.

The couple went on to have two children, Anna and Chris, who were described as the “centre of his universe” by family members.

Bournemouth Echo: Simon Freeman, left, at a party with Korean language studentsSimon Freeman, left, at a party with Korean language students

Simon had several different jobs in York after leaving university. These included a spell on the shop floor at Terry’s chocolate factory and about a year working on a bull farm.

But it was after teaching on a summer course for students from overseas at the Bell School in Bath that Simon became hooked and decided to make his career in teaching English as a foreign language – known in the industry as EFL. He gained his teaching qualification in 1978 and spent the next 40 years of his life contributing so much to the industry he was so passionate about.

Simon and Heather moved to Dorset in 1978. Over the years, Simon held a number of posts at various local English Language schools, many of which have benefitted “immeasurably” from his contributions.

Teacher, course designer, director of studies and principal were just some of the roles he performed.

He taught at the Scanbrit School of English in Southbourne, the English Language Institute, the Richard Language College, King’s College as well as the Westbourne Academy. He also worked in a non-teaching role at Bournemouth and Poole College.

For six years, he also found himself travelling to and from London as he took on the role of professional services manager and deputy CEO of what is now ENGLISH UK.

Managing director of Capital School of English Spencer Fordham said of Simon: “This role was something Simon was incredibly well-suited for given his tenacity, his natural ability to want to do what is right and first and foremost, his desire to have our industry placed front and centre with central government.

“Simon’s influence on many seismic positive changes to the sector continued throughout his career.

“He officially retired in 2018, but from what he called ‘my little office under the stairs’, Simon continued supporting the local EFL sector.

“Simon, the consummate professional, unflappable, a true gent, and a legend of our industry.”

Bournemouth Echo: Simon Freeman, middle, with staff at the Westbourne AcademySimon Freeman, middle, with staff at the Westbourne Academy

Despite his professional success, the most important thing to Simon was his family. His wife Heather, their children Anna and Chris, their partners and his grandchildren Maddy and George.

Among many childhood memories, Anna particularly remembers Simon teaching her to sail at Mudeford, and of summer evenings swimming out to a marker buoy at the beach.

For Chris, the memories which stand out are the many games of tennis they played and trips to Wimbledon. Also, the highs and lows of going together to Southampton FC matches for nearly 30 years.

His wife Heather said: “Simon always said that being a dad was the best part of him, not only in the years that the children were growing up but in knowing them now as adults in their own right. He was so happy to know that both of his children were settled and had met their own life partners.”

Simon was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in mid-November 2021. Following a short but brave battle, he died on Friday December 3. He was 68 years old.

His funeral was held on Monday, December 13, at Christchurch Priory, with donations being made to Pancreatic Cancer UK.