In memory of John Clarke

It is with great sadness that I write about the death of John Clarke. This is a massive loss for us, the schools he worked in and the hundreds of students he talked to.

John worked with Five Lives from 2016-2020. He wanted to turn his life into something positive, and by using his story to educate young people about the dangers of drugs, he absolutely did that. He had a natural way of connecting with young people that was very effective and they listened to his every word. Many turned away from experimenting with drugs, after meeting him.

The impact that he made on the hundreds of students he talked to is immeasurable and the comments from the following teachers are testament to that achievement.

Fiona Prideaux, Five Lives


Sidmouth College

I have worked with John for nearly five years. In that time, he supported our students, provided invaluable life education and became a vital part of our school community. His brutal honesty with young people was compelling: students listened to him without judgement or prejudice and asked questions of him that he answered empathetically and informatively. Students related to his candour about his regrets. I will miss John on a personal level. I will miss his warmth and good humour, I will miss his uncompromising honesty, I will miss his determination and I will miss his gravelly laugh.

Lisa Whitworth, Head of PSHE


The King’s School

He was one of the most humble and profound speakers I have ever had the pleasure to meet in all my years of teaching. He was honest, raw and unapologetic in his passion and anti-drugs message. He used to take the mick out of me, so I can add brave to his qualities too. I will miss him, but it will be easier to live with my sadness knowing his mission was accomplished – young people do remember him and his legacy lives on.

Jo Elliott, Head of PSHE

 This is very sad news. One of the most powerful and upfront speakers we have ever had the pleasure of hosting. He had a huge impact on young people.

Mike Garrick, Deputy Head

 It is rare that you find guest speakers who can hold the attention of young people in the palm of their hand. John was one of them. What a devastating loss.

David Nicholson, Student Support


Clyst Vale Community College

John was a very special person and will be sorely missed by everyone he came into contact with. The way in which he spoke to students, on their level with a real empathy for what difficult decisions young people face was truly inspirational. The impact he had on our students when they attended a workshop or were mentored by him, is immeasurable and we are eternally grateful that we had the opportunity to work with him.

Nicola Bennett, PSHE Lead


St Luke’s Science and Sports College

John was an inspiring, captivating and thought-provoking speaker. I saw the cockiest Year 10s hanging off his every word, and I saw his message of hope and the reality of addiction sink deep into their hearts. The talk from John is the only time I have had a parent email the school to tell me what an impact he had on their daughter and that it had sparked a deep discussion that evening around addiction and drugs which had led to a shift in their daughter’s mindset. While John may no longer be with us, his legacy has already been set.

He has spoken into hundreds if not thousands of lives and the prevention, change and impact he had will reach further than what we can ever know. As a teacher, I am forever thankful for the effect John’s message had on our students. I know their lives are better for it.

Hannah Talbot, PSHE Coordinator


Blundell’s School

There are many ways to teach young people about growing up, choices and decision making. There are many things they are shown, things they write, people they meet, talks they listen to. Only a few of those experiences will stay with them for their lifetime. Many of the sixth form students at Blundell’s were exceptionally fortunate to meet John. Meeting him, listening to his stories, asking him questions, getting candid, full throttle, heartfelt responses was one of those incredible experiences – unforgettable, spine tingling but always with laughter and a positive warmth flowing from the room. He was always so generous, so open, so caring and so compassionate. The sessions always over-ran as I never wanted to interrupt, and the students didn’t want to stop talking to him.

For me, as a teacher, I always looked forward to Five Lives coming in, knowing it will change the students’ perceptions in ways I never could. We shouldn’t have favourites. But we do. And John was one of ours.

Annabel Taylor-Ross, Head of PSHE


St James School

John visited us at St James several times to speak to our Health and Social Care students. He was incredibly brave and inspirational in speaking to our students. His open and honest approach meant that they would be talking about him for weeks and months afterwards. I know that they will have that memory of him for the rest of their lives. John changed their lives for the better.

Steffi Morby, Lead in Health and Social Care


The Bridge

So shocked and saddened to hear about John. His work with our young people proved to be an invaluable experience. Speaking about his own personal experiences in such an honest and open way put a very different perspective on issues faced by many of our students. His work had real impact and I believe he made a great difference to many students’ lives. An inspirational story, that will personally stay with me for a very long time. He will be missed.

Rebecca Boyd, Inclusion Hubs Coordinator