Bouquet of the week

22nd May 1998 at 01:00
Stereotypes can be damaging. Ask teachers what they think of school caretakers and, odds on, you'll get a groan.

Consider, then, the likely reputation of a caretaker doing building work on the side. What a scary combination that could be - an authoritarian cowboy, jangling his keys at the drop of a hat. He sure could make life hell.

Well, stereotypes can always be overturned. Step forward Graham Proctor, the much-admired site manager at Waingel's Copse comprehensive in Woodley, Berkshire.

Graham, who has worked for Berkshire schools for 25 years, receives a Bouquet of the Week from Friday for being an unsung hero. He was nominated by the school's new head of languages, Chris Darby, who describes the joy of discovering Graham and his team - Malcolm, Peter and Terry.

When Chris Darby arrived, the modern languages staffroom needed a refit. Work started at a day's notice when wet weather put paid to an outdoor job and "within two hours Graham and his team had moved a mountain of materials into storage and erected makeshift accommodation for us in the main staffroom.

"In the course of the next 11 days they completely refurbished our faculty room: new flooring, new window in an external wall, new sink, redecorated, new work booths and extensive shelving system."

Phew! And it was all done with "fine workmanship, pride and good humour" - and saved the school a packet.

As a boy Graham trained as a "slater and tiler", so the building work comes naturally, but he's also responsible for all cleaning and caretaking on a big, leafy site. "It's a lovely place and we are quite proud of it," he says.

He's a man with other talents, too. Earlier this year, he and the bursar put together a bid for the school to take charge of its own catering, and they won the contract. The dining hall was transformed into a new-style cafeteria and the Waingel's Copse catering service has now taken off.

More inspiring stories are what you'll find elsewhere in Friday - from Alison Moore, the south London teacher who won't let racists stop her teaching, to the England women's rugby team, a third of whom are teachers. On the maths pages, there are plenty of ideas to try - the Fizz-buzz game is my favourite.

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

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