Bouquet of the week

3rd April 1998 at 01:00
Age and experience still matter enormously in teaching. Mrs Janet Daw is living proof, if proof is needed. She has taught young children at Eight Ash Green CE primary school near Colchester, Essex, for 31 years - "that's more than half my life", she says - and her staffroom colleagues thought it was about time the wider world was told.

Wendy Enguell, deputy head at Eight Ash Green, nominated Mrs Daw for Bouquet of the Week with a note exuding warmth and praise for this infant class teacher. "She's an oracle and an inspiration to us all," Mrs Enguell says. "Her knowledge is immense but she's also very bubbly and has a great sense of humour."

Mrs Daw teaches a class of 33 five and six-year-olds in Year 1 - children from families she has known a long time. "I haven't yet had a child say I taught their granny, but I wouldn't be surprised." She says she has never wanted to move beyond the classroom, observing that each day is different and that teaching young children is very satisfying. "That's all I've ever wanted to do."

Ambitious she may not be, but she has certainly become an expert. Staff at the school ask her advice about anything and everything and depend on her for ideas and resources. "They know I'm a terrible hoarder but things do come in handy - especially children's work that I've kept."

For years she has taken photographs of school events and made books recording the past for children to use. "She's our archive as well as our oracle!" according to Mrs Enguell.

In the face of huge educational changes her colleagues have seen her respondcreatively, continuing to involve parents in the classroom, always brimful of ideas and taking everything in her stride. That really is why she's so admired.

Recently Mrs Daw was inspected, for only the second time in her life. The worst part, she says was "the hype" beforehand, getting all the paperwork ready.

However, she was rewarded with an "excellent" grading from OFSTEDon all the classes observed. "It is nice to be recognised. Every teacher needs a confidence boost sometimes and I was very pleased."

She fails to understand why the status of teachers is not higher in the public's mind. "All the teachers I know are very professional and work very hard. The children's interests are at the heart of what they do."

Recently she celebrated her 60th birthday but has no plans to retire. "The minute I stop enjoying it, I shall stop doing it."

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

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