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Lottery winners hide in wings

The show must go on I even if you have just hit the National Lottery jackpot.

And at Race Leys primary in Bedworth, Warwickshire, where a syndicate of 20 teachers, dinner ladies, cleaners and office staff scooped Pounds 2.2 million, celebrations took a backseat to the children's Christmas production.

"It would have been wrong of us to go on some wild celebration when we have such important things to do," said syndicate leader Paul Ison, hoarse after talking almost non-stop for days.

"Although everyone at the school is very happy for us, the Christmas play and carol concerts are very significant events for the children."

The three Christmas performances at the 280-pupil school gave the shell-shocked staff a chance to forget about the lottery for a few days.

Each received a Pounds 111,972 share when their numbers - 42,17,13,22, 47,6 and the bonus ball 30 - came up on Saturday evening. Mr Ison had been watching the live television programme with wife Tracey and children Matthew, eight, and Giverny, four, when he realised he had matched all six numbers.

The syndicate, which has been running for two years, had only won Pounds 30 before. "I was shocked, had a quick brandy and became a bit more rational, " he said. "I rang a few colleagues and then telephoned Camelot to find out what I had to do. By Sunday, everyone concerned knew about the win."

The syndicate from Race Leys was one of four winners who shared Saturday's jackpot of Pounds 8,957,796. Eighteen of its members want to keep their success a secret. But Paul Ison and fellow teacher Karen Aguera this week appeared at a Camelot press conference.

"We are absolutely ecstatic about the win, who wouldn't be?" said Mr Ison. "But we are both teachers and it is the interests of the children which must come first.

"The main focus for the staff has been getting the kids up and running for the Christmas production. At the end of the day, we have got a show to put on."

None of the syndicate knows exactly how they will be spending their winnings, but Mr Ison, a Year 5 teacher, thinks he will take his family to Disneyland in Florida.

Karen Aguera, a Year 6 teacher, plans to travel to America and Canada to watch whales. "It's always been my ambition to see whales swimming free in the sea," she said. "Mind you, I suppose I could afford my own whale now."

Karen Aguera, whose husband Vic is also a teacher, added: "Everyone at the school has been just great. Even the people who were not in the syndicate have been patting us on the back and wishing us luck.

"The children think it's lovely that their teachers have won a lot of money."

It is uncertain whether all the winners will remain working at the school.

"As a syndicate we have never sat down and discussed it," said Mr Ison.

A big lottery win, however, was not enough to convince Ruth Maddison, an East Sussex deputy head, to leave teaching.

Eighteen months after husband Paul won half of a Pounds 22.5 million lottery jackpot, she is still working at Denton county primary in Newhaven.

This week, when told about the win at Race Leys, she said: "Oh, how lovely. I wish them all the best."

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