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Bouquet of the week;Alison Spittles

Small schools need lots of talents among their staff. At Goldsmith Infant School in Portsmouth, new headteacher Debbie Anderson found a great team, including Alison Spittles, reception teacher and early years co-ordinator.

A graduate of the London College of Music, Alison plays the piano in assembly and takes a lunchtime music club - as well as co-ordinating the subject for the school. When the Portsmouth schools music festival and school-based productions come round, Alison starts rehearsals with four-year-olds upwards.

She's also responsible for English and has introduced the literacy hour, training other teachers and introducing all the new materials. "Alison has got a huge commitment to the children," says Debbie Anderson. "Mixed with her energy and enthusiasm, she is a very special person at this school."

Goldsmith is an inner city school with 120 pupils aged four to seven. Recently, staff accepted free ferry tickets for a round trip to the Isle of Wight as part of their transport topic "On the move". Forty-four children from the two reception classes made the journey with 22 parents. "We never disembarked but some children had never been on a boat before. We had a brilliant, exciting time," says Alison.

She says rallying parents is a natural part of the job. "One of the things I really appreciate about teaching in the early years is contact with parents."

Alison is at work by 7.30 every morning (alongside all her colleagues, she tells me) and has never been heard to moan - even if she's had a sleepless night with baby daughter Eleanor, who is pictured here. "Managing to balance your life and enjoying it all is great to see," says Debbie Anderson. Well done and thank you.

Mature teachers who can't get permanent posts have been writing to The TES about ageism. When they hear Ministers pronounce on the national teacher shortage, they feel like screaming. Here they are, qualified and keen, but rejected for being too old - and too expensive. For many it is a depressing end to a late-start career. They and their families have often made big sacrifices to get this far - what a rotten way to run a system when committed, experienced adults are just what many children and their schools need.

Susan Brown, 17, receives 'Sounds Good 101 Poems to be Heard', edited by Christopher Reid (Faber). Submitted by Carole Bramley of All Saints' RC School, York, who receives a set of Poetry Society posters with teacher's notes. Please send students' poems, preferably no longer than 20 lines, to 'TES' Young Poet, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY. Eva Salzman leads workshops in schools with students of all ages and is writer-in-residence at the Bromley-by-Bow Centre in east London.

Bouquet of the Week is given in association with Marks amp; 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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