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`If I become incapable, people will tell me'

A teacher who loves her job went to work in a non-fee-paying private school in order to be able to work on beyond retirement age. So many teachers retire prematurely these days that it comes as a refreshing surprise to meet one who is still working happily several years beyond the official retirement date.

Daphne Evans is a part-time teacher at Dame Catherine's, a small non-fee-paying independent primary school in Ticknall, Derbyshire, run by a parent co-operative. Her decision to go there came when her age compelled her to leave her Grade B post for maths and science in a Derby infants school. "I left my other job in 1990 and I came here straight away. I love teaching children, and it seems such a shame not to go on if you're capable. It's just that I enjoy being with children, it never gets boring."

She is not sorry to have left behind the pressures of the national curriculum and key stage assessment. "I was very concerned that there wouldn't be time to do such a comprehensive teaching job if you were always trying to reach a test standard."

Daphne particularly appreciates the small teaching groups at Dame Catherine's - she has groups of about six, in both infant and junior sections. "It's lovely. I can see the progression and see their problems as they come up. " The task in the state sector is, as she acknowledges, very different. "They work so damned hard, I'm not surprised they retire early."

She refuses to disclose her age, but she did tell me that she left the state sector in 1990, which leaves us with some simple arithmetic and a very impressive answer. So how long is she going on?"I hope if I become incapable, people will tell me. I'm sure they will!" Meanwhile, as she says, "I have quite a lot to give. It's very much in my heart that these children are the next generation and they need so much knowledge. They really need to be encouraged - not bullied or pushed, but told why things happen."

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