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Bouquet of the week

Let's get down to basics. Every school needs a Mrs Appleton. She's a gem and a treasure and she gives 110 per cent. And she's an expert nit catcher - which comes in very handy when nits are rampant, especially if you're a new parent (or a new teacher) and you don't even know what a nit looks like. You don't mind asking Eileen Appleton for help.

The staff of Fitzwilliam Junior and Infant School in Pontefract, West Yorkshire, appreciate their school secretary who has been at the heart of the place for 29 years. "She clears up, nurses, sorts out and fixes," said the card nominating her for Bouquet of the Week, just as she was celebrating her 60th birthday. "She's always there in any crisis, as she was for the children's parents and even their grandparents."

When I telephone her first thing Monday morning, she is her usual busy self. "I've got the school dentist in the library and there was a hearing test in here a minute ago. Today, of course, it's dinner money day and it'll be lovely when I can settle down and do some letters." (I had to dissuade her from writing a thank-you letter to The TES for the beautiful flowers - "It's you we're thanking, Mrs Appleton.") As well as bathing sore knees and comforting the ones who are feeling poorly, Mrs Appleton relates to all the children and their families. "Truthfully, I do see the children a lot and not just when they collect the registers. They come to me when they've been rewarded and show me the work they're doing." According to headteacher Julie Murray she's an "all-round marvel - I can trust her with anything and she lightens my load no end."

Eileen Appleton started work at Fitzwilliam School in 1967 - for nine hours a week. "The head then did a lot of administration himself and I had time to dust the shelves." These days there's no time for dusting. "I work the photocopier with my feet," she says happily. "Then I pat it and say, 'Now you be good and get on with that'."

It's because the job has grown and got so interesting that "the years have just flown by". She's full of admiration for the school's young staff and is touched that they thought to nominate her. "If it ever becomes a bind or I get tired I shall hang my coat up. But as long as I can give 110 per cent, I'm happy to do it."

Going by my postbag, Mrs Appleton is one of many school secretaries doing a terrific job. Well done and thanks to them all. Please send me your nomination for Bouquet of the Week - a teacher or other member of staff who makes a difference to your school. If you're on half term next week, enjoy the break but don't forget your copy of Friday - inside your TES every week.

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