A BELOVED primary school teacher, who was killed when a van hit her car, has been remembered for her ‘passion for lifelong learning’.

Helen Banfield, 59, from Standlake, died on February 19 on the A415 Standlake Road, near Witney.

An inquest opening into her death at Oxfordshire Coroner’s Court on Thursday heard she was heading towards the village in her VW Polo when she was hit by a white van travelling in the other direction which had crossed into the other lane.

She was pronounced dead at the scene from a severe head injury.

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Heartfelt tributes to the teacher, who was originally from Australia, have been paid by Appleton Primary School, were she taught.

Headteacher Amy Carnell, in a newsletter to parents last week, wrote: “Losing a colleague in such tragic circumstances has been tough for all of us, but as always, the Appleton family have shown us nothing but love and support to help us through this week. A huge thank you from us all.”

She said Mrs Banfield 'loved life', and this 'permeated into everything she did' adding: “She inspired the children with her work and has touched so many lives.

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“Her wonderful displays and her many songs will stay with us all for ever."

The headteacher said it was ‘a gift’ to have been able to share ‘just a small part of Helen’s life’ and she was in no doubt the legacy she leaves, is 'one of a passion for lifelong learning'.

She added: “Helen was a caring and loved family woman, a cherished colleague, and friend. She will be missed by many, but never forgotten.”

A tribute from the Friends of Appleton Primary School, also in the newsletter, said: “Mrs Banfield was such a special person and a truly unique and wonderful teacher. You could tell that without a doubt, teaching wasn’t just a job to her,"

It added: “She genuinely loved the children and was determined to teach them about life and give them experiences that would awaken their curiosity for the world outside of the classroom. She inspired that curiosity in the most warm and nurturing way."

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The group described how when the Foundation Class arrived back to school after the October half-term, Mrs Banfield had turned the whole classroom into the woods from The Gruffalo.

It said: “The classroom was transformed into a Narnia-type adventure for the children and they absolutely loved it. This is one small example of the kind of thing Mrs Banfield did; she made learning fun and we will always remember her amazing smile, fabulous earrings and zest for life.

“We will miss her warmth and generosity of spirit and are devastated to lose such a special person in our lives. She will live on through the huge impact she has had in shaping the young minds of those she taught."

A full inquest into her death is scheduled to take place on August 20 ‘depending on criminal proceedings’.