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Foot-sore fighter

Despite 30 years in the classroom, Irene James was not physically prepared for the rigour of a political campaign. "I have blisters on my feet," she said.

For the past fortnight, Miss James has been walking the streets of Islwyn constituency, Gwent. The special-needs teacher at Gwent's Risca primary is campaigning to win a Welsh Assembly seat for Labour after a narrow loss to Plaid Cymru in 1999.

Miss James, 50, said: "In the short time the Assembly has existed, it has been buildinga society for Wales, with priorities for Wales. When I started teaching, it was nothing to have 38 infants in a class. Now there are between 23 and 28."

She says her decision to stand is motivated by the Assembly's past record.

She hopes to bring her expertise to the implementation of the new play-based foundation stage.

The other Assembly candidates in Islwyn are Brian Hancock for Plaid Cymru, Terri-Anne Matthews for the Conservative party, Huw Price for the Liberal Democrats and Paul Tinker-Taylor, standing as Independent Against the Assembly.

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