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Bouquet of the week

It is a sad fact that, however well intentioned they may be, people who offer voluntary help to schools tend to drift away after a few visits. Such had been the experience of Janet Hilary, acting head of The Vines, a school for pupils with moderate learning difficulties in Battersea, south London. Then she met Rosie Binnie.

Rosie got talking to one of the teachers on a school outing to Battersea Park. She asked if they would like any voluntary help, and two weeks later she started at the school. That was more than a year ago, since when Rosie has spent every Tuesday morning helping the children with reading and numeracy, giving extra support where it's needed most.

"She always turn up. She's never late. And she never looks for praise or thanks. Her commitment has been tremendous," says Janet in nominating Rosie for Bouquet of the Week. "What is exceptional about her is that she has no personal interest in the school, no family reasons for offering help. It comes from the heart."

Many of the 100 pupils at The Vines have language and communication needs, and it takes patience to support them. "It's important to be a good listener, " says Rosie, who explains that as a child at school in Manchester she suffered speech problems herself. Her difficulties went unnoticed by teachers whom she found "quite frightening", except the dancing and art teacher, who was nicer and more encouraging.

At 17, Rosie left school for an apprenticeship in the textile trade, eventually progressing from technician work to become a designer. After 40 years in the business, she retired three years ago.

Helping out at The Vines is "a privilege," says Rosie, who recognises a special quality about the place, in the "hundreds of little things the teachers do to make the children feel all right, and in the way they are so supportive of each other".

Says Janet Hilary: "We aim as high as we can for the children, giving them what they need to reach their potential. Rosie makes them feel confident that they can achieve what they've been asked to achieve. We want her to know that the privilege is ours."

And it seems to be one the school will be enjoying for some time to come: Rosie has just decided to do a computer course so she can be of more help to the children with their IT work.

Bouquet of the Week is given in association with Marks Spencer. Names, please, on a postcard - and why - to Sarah Bayliss, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY

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