Bouquet of the week

20th February 1998 at 00:00
From the day he left school at 15, Derek Spencer worked with machines in a textile mill. For 32 years he repaired them, working his way up through night school to become the factory's maintenance engineering supervisor. Then the management changed and his job turned sour. But for Derek it was a god-send.

He swapped machines for people and became caretaker - now the site manager - at Millwood School in Bury, Lancashire, a special school for primary-aged children. "To have a career change in your late 40s and to find a brilliant job - well, that's just a dream come true," says Derek, who was thrilled and amazed to be nominated by the school for the Friday bouquet.

Millwood is the only special school of its kind in Bury. It takes children with severe learning difficulties, who may be autistic or in wheelchairs, with little or no speech. It has a hydrotherapy pool, two light rooms with cyber-optic lights and lasers to stimulate the children, plus special toiletting equipment, which all need careful maintenance.

Derek has only been there three years, but as deputy head Joan Hall says, "that's a long time to make a big impact". They call him a gentle giant, the man who does everything to keep the school "immaculately clean", running efficiently and secure.

The difference with Derek is that he also does every maintenance job he can, saving the school a fortune by glazing broken windows, decorating, mending furniture and fixing children's toys and wheelchairs. No job is too small - or too big - and he does it all with a smile.

If you want to recognise an unsung hero at your school - a teacher or another member of staff - do send your nominations to me.

In today's issue of Friday, there is at least one teacher who deserves a bouquet - Lynn Jones of Blurton High School, Stoke-on-Trent, whose passion for teaching social sciences produces astonishing results. She "busts a gut" to get pupils working and her skill in the classroom has been rated outstanding by the Office for Standards in Education. Lynn Jones observes wisely that children "can tell if you're not bothered".

Andrew Norriss loved teaching but he loved writing even more and has found success and recognition with the Whitbread Children's Book of the Year Award. Read about his prize-winning Aquila, our Book of the Week, which may be the answer if you're trying to turn on reluctant boy readers. We hope you'll feel inspired.

Bouquet of the Week Names, please, on a postcard - and why - to Sarah Bayliss, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY Bouquet of the week is given in association with Marks Spencer

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