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Friday Hero

Pauline Thompson is a supply teacher at Parkside school for pupils aged two to 19 with severe and multiple learning difficulties in Wallsend, North Tyneside.

Pauline is the school's "flexible friend", an unsung hero who for eight years has provided instant cover as well as longer supply. According to headteacher Helen Jones, who nominated her for our flowers, champagne and chocolates, Pauline is an exceptionally valuable teacher who could have been appointed to a permanent post many times over - if only she would apply.

"Pauline always does an excellent job and is highly respected by colleagues and parents. But she's determined to work part-time, and we're delighted to have her."

Last term, Pauline stepped into a temporary job share at key stage 1 while another teacher finished a Master's degree. But at other times she has taught post-16 students. "It gives us great flexibility," says Ms Jones, "to know that we can release a teacher and still have high quality work going on."

On one long-term contract, Pauline took responsibility for PSHE and achieved a "healthy school" award for Parkside. During a recent Ofsted inspection she offered to free up every teacher for half a day's preparation.

This past year has been exceptional for Parkside, which has more than 50 staff and 92 pupils with complex difficulties, including autism. It has achieved specialist status in business and enterprise jointly with Burnside, a local community high school. Ms Jones says the successful joint bid has raised the status of students who already do work experience in hotels, horticulture, the local sports centre and the Department of Work and Pensions. Another busy year lies ahead.

Is there an unsung hero in your school? Tell Sarah Bayliss, TESFriday editor, about him or her at the address below. Flowers kindly supplied by Marks amp; Spencer

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