Bouquet of the week

29th October 1999 at 01:00
DORIS HOPSON.

Queen Victoria Primary School in Dudley has 700 pupils and must be one of the biggest of its kind. Anna Smith arrived as the new headteacher in September with 25 years teaching behind her, including two previous headships for Dudley. "I'm what you call a serial head," she says.

In spite of all her experience, she was unprepared for the treasure she found in the form of Doris Hopson, the school's site manager and lunchtime supervisor. "I have never met anyone so devoted to a school," she says, nominating Doris for our bouquet of the week.

The Queen Vic is a big site to manage, with two playgrounds, a field and a rambling building with high ceilings and "lots of potential for leaks". Doris and her cleaning team keep the place "spotless", litter-free, warm and secure.

The building is also newly decorated, thanks to a community service team of young offenders. Every Sunday morning for the past four years, Doris has unlocked the building for them and their supervisor from the probation service. They've painted classrooms and corridors, laid slabs around the mobile classrooms and dug the garden. "I've got to know some of them well and they do a lovely job," says Doris.

Doris works "exceptionally long hours", all for the good of the school, says Anna Smith. As lunchtime supervisor, she's known as "Aunty Doris" to the children and has a wealth of knowledge about local families. "She is a real Black Country lady who calls a spade a spade," says Anna Smith. (She called the chief education officer "ma man" when he came to visit and the head seems to be called "ma wench".) Her children have grown up, and with the school just round the corner it has become her life. "It's like a family," Doris says. "When I'm away I miss it."

She's a hard act to follow, but please send me an e-mail or a post card about the big-hearted people who make a difference to your school.

Our cover story this week focuses on the fantasical stories of Alice in Wonderland, which have inspired distinguished artists for over a century. Now Channel 4 has produced a quirky adaptation for schools television and two illustrators, Helen Oxenbury and Lisbeth Zwerger, have created their own interpretations of this children's classic.

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. Or e-mail: sarah.bayliss@newsint.co.uk.

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