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Assistant who's 100 per cent gold

"One hundred per cent commitment, 100 per cent of the time."

This, according to Anne Rees, headteacher at Moorland primary school, Cardiff, is what Liz Norman unfailingly gives to her job.

Miss Norman, 38, has been easing nursery children into the classroom routine for most of her working life. This summer, she won the Welsh teaching award for classroom assistant of the year in a primary school.

"She's totally reliable and if you ask her to do something you know it will be done, and done to the highest possible standard," says Mrs Rees.

"She's the ideal teaching assistant as she is very empathetic to the needs of the children, and also has the same instinctive approach to fulfilling staff requirements."

Miss Norman says: "I love everything about the job. I enjoy helping children to adjust to life without their parents, and supporting those with special needs.

"We have pupils for whom English is a second language. We help them overcome communication problems through play - it's a universal language."

Throughout her 14 years at Moorland, Miss Norman has kept her approach fresh.

"You have to move with the times," she says. "If you keep on doing the same things you soon get into a rut. At this school the head is very supportive, and you know you will be listened to."

One of her pet projects is the garden - a sensory area has been cultivated over three years, and the school also has a thriving vegetable plot.

"The children have their own digging area, which they love," she says. "We grow potatoes, tomatoes and strawberries. It's important for children to know where vegetables come from."

Miss Norman believes that fresh air and outdoor physical play is essential for a child's development. Year-round outdoor activity is made possible with the help of an all-weather play surface and a canopy that fends off all but the most torrential rain, while also providing protection from heat.

"The children learn through play and pleasure. As far as possible, we try to give them experiences they wouldn't be able to access elsewhere, and prepare them for the reception class."

The end of the children's nursery era is marked with a graduation day.

Saying goodbye isn't easy, but there are compensations.

"I run the local cub pack and a number of children who were in my nursery class are members," says Miss Norman.

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