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Vice-Chancellor: Stand united in mourning and solidarity at 10:00 today

Graphic showing Forbury Gardens lion, white to back background. Together in lternating black and white lettering

I was deeply saddened to learn that James Furlong, one of the three people who died following the Forbury Gardens attack on Saturday evening, was a fellow teacher at a school in Wokingham and a mentor for trainee teachers at the University of Reading’s Institute of Education.

James was Head of History and Government & Politics at the Holt School in Wokingham, one of our partner schools with whom we have a close relationship for teacher training. The school’s co-headteachers have described him as “talented and inspirational”. Will Bailey-Watson, our subject lead for history teacher training at the University, said he was a “kind and giving man”.

Will said: “He was an inspirational mentor for new teachers. He found time to really listen to the students he worked with. One of our students last year even based her final assignment around some advice that James gave her when she was struggling. He pushed colleagues to think hard about their craft.

“I learnt something from him every time we chatted about history teaching. I will miss working with him. My thoughts are with James’ family, friends and everyone in the Holt School community.”

Yesterday I requested that the University’s flags be flown at half-mast for the next week, as a mark of respect for those who died.

Today, the Reading Mayor and Leader of the Council will lead a minute’s silent reflection at 10am. While social distancing regulations mean that we cannot physically come together to mark this moment, as we normally would, I know that the whole University of Reading community will do everything it can to show support for those who are mourning loved ones and solidarity with our Reading friends and neighbours.

Please therefore make sure you mark this moment, wherever you are at 10am today, by stopping your usual work or activity. Join with thousands of others in a moment’s reflection. Reading Borough Council have indicated on the RBC Facebook page they will be leading the silence; the University’s Facebook page will also mark the event. It is moments together like these, when no words are spoken, that say the most about us as a united community. I cannot think of a more powerful message to send to those who seek to divide us.

We will think of James Furlong’s family, friends, students and colleagues, whose lives will be poorer without him. We will reflect on the bravery of the police, public and medics on Saturday, whose actions undoubtedly saved lives.

We will think of our determination to stand united and not allow violence or hatred to break us apart.

PROFESSOR ROBERT VAN DE NOORT

Vice-Chancellor, University of Reading

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