TRIBUTES have been paid to a popular science teacher who taught at an Oxford comprehensive for 24 years.

Duncan Nicholls, 46, a physics teacher at Cheney School in Headington, died suddenly on Monday.

The Oxford United season ticket holder and keen cricketer was head of science at the 1,470-pupil secondary school in Cheney Lane.

Headteacher Jolie Kirby said last night: “He was a really inspiring teacher. He shared very generously his passion for teaching and for science.

“He will be very sorely missed and our thoughts are with his family.”

She added: “He taught at the school for 24 years.

“That is a significant period of time to influence so many Students across generations.

“He was great fun, lively and fully committed to his profession.”

It is not yet known how Mr Nicholls died, but Oxford Coroners’ office said last night an inquest would not be held.

Andrew Smith, MP for Oxford East, said: “The whole community owes an enormous debt of thanks to Duncan Nicholls, a dedicated and first-rate teacher who gave his whole professional life to the school, and made an outstanding contribution.

“I know he was greatly respected by students and staff and the whole Cheney community, who are stunned by his death. He really will be sadly missed.”

Mrs Kirby said many students were close to him.

She added: “He was incredibly respected as a science teacher. He always made learning fun – he had a passion to make sure science was accessible to every student.

“We have lots of students taking A-Level science here and that is down to his leadership of the science department.”

Students, staff and members of the community have been paying tribute to Mr Nicholls in condolence books at the school.

And a Facebook group called ‘Goodbye Mr Nicholls’ had more than 500 members last night.

Mr Nicholls, of Ash Grove, in Headington, played as wicket keeper for the school’s staff cricket club.

City councillor Gill Sanders who worked at Cheney from 1989 to 2008, said: “He was one of the rocks the school was built on.”

Richard Josephy, a school governor, said: “I do not think you would find anybody connected with the school who would have a bad word to say about him.”