Bouquet of the week

7th May 1999 at 01:00

Maisie Gallagher is four-and-a-half years old and has just graduated from the University of Birmingham's day nursery to "big" school. She's had the best start in life, according to her mum, Ingrid Gallagher, who nominated the nursery's manager, Toni Ibbitson, for Bouquet of the Week.

"For Maisie, it's been like having a second family," says Ingrid, who took her daughter there, aged five months, after looking at 14 day nurseries in the city. "It was the lovely 'meet and greet' they gave us and all the incredible things the children do."

Mrs Gallagher, deputy head of a Sandwell comprehensive, describes a nursery curriculum which is "awesome". "They have soft-play and sand and a garden, but they also do all the things we do in secondary: dance, drama, technology, PSE, languages. Maisie speaks better French than me!" Known as the Elm's day nursery, it has 86 places for the children of university staff, students and others. Toni Ibbitson arrived as nursery manager seven years ago, doubled the number of places and now also runs Selly Oak Colleges' nursery.

Toni started her career as a nursery nurse, has lectured on NNEB courses ("No time for that now") and is an assessor for NVQ students in childcare and education. "We've got some brilliant staff here and the curriculum is always developing," she says.

According to Ingrid, Toni is kind, sensitive, funny, an "organiser extraordinaire" and an "oracle to harrassed mothers and fathers". The day nursery has a PTA which organises events, including a summer fair and a 'parent to parent' noticeboard.

Work apart, Toni knows how to relax. She owns a horse called Murphy and, most evenings, rides in the country. "I can usually fit it in - everyone works hard, don't they?" The increased workload of many teachers and its effect on family life is one of the commonest anxieties picked up by telephone counsellors, described on 'Mind and Body', page 14. It's a sign of the times that five teaching unions now offer 24-hour helplines. Pupils' unruly behaviour and fear of assault is another anxiety addressed this week. On page 4 we explore Bill Thorpe's highly recommended "holding" techniques for calming aggressive pupils.

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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