Betty Slinger

4th July 2003 at 01:00
Betty Slinger is the school administration officer at Bishop Gilpin primary school in the London borough of Merton.

At last, Betty is looking forward to retirement. She leaves, aged 70, after 31 years - the end of an era, says parent governor Elizabeth Broad, who nominated her for our flowers, champagne and chocolates. "We have no idea what we are going to do without her," she says.

Betty first became involved as a dinner lady when her three children were pupils. She's worked her way up "through the ranks", knows the name of every child and every family, is kind, unflappable and welcoming. At this popular and oversubscribed school, her local knowledge is invaluable. "She can smell a rat at 40 paces if there is a mere hint of a 'convenient' but inaccurate address on an application form."

Headteacher Bob Cargill has known her for six years. "She's lively, young at heart and loved by all. Some parents can't believe she's about to retire, even now."

In recent years the school has doubled in size from a single-form entry infants to a two-form entry primary with 500 on roll. With expansion, Betty has inevitably had less to do with children - and their grazed knees - and more to do with paperwork. So perhaps now is a good time to call it a day.

"From time to time she wants to come back and, of course, we'll invite her," says Bob Cargill. "She's part of our community."

Friday magazine will be back on September 5. Don't forget to nominate a gem at your school for the term ahead

Send the name of your Friday Hero to Sarah Bayliss, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, or email sarah.bayliss@tes.co.uk. Flowers kindly supplied by Marks amp; Spencer

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