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Bouquet of the week;Julie Fraser;Features amp; Arts

In a crisis, schools need team players who can provide stability and have the imagination to know what needs to be done. This week headteacher Gail Fullbrook from Christ Church C of E primary school in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, has nominated classroom assistant Julie Fraser for our flowers. "She's a gem. She's priceless and we wouldn't be without her," she said in her e-mail.

Julie works in a reception class and, sadly, this term the class teacher has been bereaved. In September the teacher's absence was partly covered by Gail. But as she gamely admits: "I had no real idea where to start."

The children, some of them only just four, were organised and welcomed by Julie "in such a way that we had few tears and no real upsets", says Gail. Now the class teacher has taken extended leave and a new teacher, an NQT, is covering. Julie has been a key worker, and even now will "take on the role of guiding the new teacher".

It's said that Julie never panics, is creative and resourceful in teaching small groups and always notices when things need doing. She's kind and gentle and plays a vital role "in the care of our youngest children".

Julie has been at Christ Church for nine years. She trained as a nursery nurse and then had children of her own. Children make her job what it is today. "They're just so natural and honest, which I love. They certainly tell me if I'm having a bad hair day or if I've got a ladder in my tights."

So when is she going to start training to be a teacher? "Never. It's too much work," is the reply, and I can hardly argue with that. "I'm involved in planning," she explains, "but it's not exactly my responsibility." Long may she stay at Christ Church, happy in the excellent job she does.

This week our cover focuses on a Mind and Body story about the value of pets. Happily, science has proved what animal lovers have known all along - that keeping animals is good for your health. We found teachers who are devoted to pig rearing and sheep herding as well as stroking the ubiquitous cat and dog. What's important is having another life to go home to, and if cleaning out a pig sty after a bad day with Year 9 is what cheers you up, so be it.

Bouquet of the Week is given in association with Marks amp; Spencer. Names, please - and why - on a postcard to Sarah Bayliss, 'The TES', Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX. Or send an e-mail to: sarah.bayliss@tes.co.uk

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