Friday Hero

Keith Lester has worked as a classroom teacher at Lee Chapel primary school in Basildon, Essex, for an amazing 35 years.

Mr Lester officially retired at the end of last term and was given a magnificent send-off by colleagues, pupils and families whose generations have been taught by him. But this term he'll be back two days a week covering lessons and continuing to mentor NQTs and students.

Headteacher Susan Jackson was reluctant to let go of this "talented and dedicated" teacher, so when a letter came in May out of the blue inviting her to nominate Lee Chapel primary for beacon status, Mr Lester's future became part of the school's strategy.

Lee Chapel successfully applied to be a beacon school for three years from this September, and some of its teachers will soon be developing best practice in neighbouring schools. Meanwhile, their classes are in safe hands with Mr Lester, described by Ofsted as an "excellent" Grade 1 teacher.

"The last thing we want," says Ms Jackson, who nominated Mr Lester for our flowers, champagne and chocolates, "is to water down our own practice, so we're very pleased Keith has agreed to come back two days a week."

The school has 438 pupils and was recently awarded a Sport England Activemark. Mr Lester has run after-school clubs in badminton, cricket, gymnastics and athletics and will continue to take a sporting interest with his new role.

Next year, this "confirmed bachelor" is getting married so there will be more cause for celebrations.

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