Pupils, staff and parents shock following the sudden death of popular staff member Chris James.

TRIBUTES have been paid to a much loved Ilfracombe teaching assistant following her sudden death last week.

The close knit community of Ilfracombe Infant School is still in shock following the unexpected death of Chris James on Wednesday.

Chris, 61, had worked at the school for more than 25 years, well known and liked both at the school and in the town.

On behalf of the school, headteacher Theresa Hodge said she was 'much loved by children, parents and staff'.

"The school has lost a great teaching assistant and friend," she said.

"Chris gave us much laughter, kindness and never failed to be honest in all things. We have been blessed that she has been such a big part of our school community."

Chris lived in Ilfracombe with her husband Pete and children Tom and Sarah, of whom Mrs Hodge said she had been immensely proud.

Children at the school are making a book of tribute for her. One pupil, Harley, wrote 'Chris looked after us and made sure we were safe because she loved us', while Izaac said 'Chris was happy and kind'.

Parents also added their thoughts to the book, including one who said: 'Such a wonderful smile, warm heart and love. So many lives you have touched Chris. We have been blessed'.

Former headteacher Christine Thompson, who worked with Chris throughout her career, said it had been a big shock for everyone: "She was a very funny person and she kept everyone happy in school - she always made everyone smile and I think that's what people will remember the most," she said.

Children at the school are going to release six balloons in memory of Chris, while new play area is to be named Chris' Playground.