Bouquet of the week

8th January 1999 at 00:00

Welcome back. Here at Friday magazine we've refreshed pages and introduced new series for the year ahead. You'll find us inside the TES every week now until the summer holidays.

The first bouquet of term goes to Pat Deacon, school cook for 26 years at Brading Church of England primary on the Isle of Wight and known to the children as "Auntie Pat". Now aged 70, she's been a foundation governor for 12 years, breakfast club volunteer for five years, literacy hour helper since September... the list goes on.

"I don't think there is a single part of school life that Pat has never been involved in," says headteacher Alastair Wilbee, who nominated her. "For nearly 30 years she has been the spiritual heart of our school."

Born in Brading, between Sandown and Ryde, Pat Deacon was married in the village church of St Mary's and has always lived on the island. She was a pupil at the school and her two daughters were too. "I didn't go far in my life, did I?" she says with a laugh. "I tried shop and office work and then one day someone walked out of the school kitchen. I said I'd help out for a few months and I've been here ever since."

So, her life has revolved around Brading and the children of the parish - but it's not as if she's stuck in the past. Officially retired at 65, she still provides relief cover when the present cook is absent and, as a classroom helper, she often bakes bread and fancy biscuits with the children. She's finding the literacy hour "very interesting" and says there's always something new to learn.

Meanwhile, the staff agree she's the soul of discretion while offering a friendly ear and a few kind words to adults and children alike. "I'm making her sound like an angel," says Alastair Wilbee. "But she is!" Funny he should say that when I've been astonished to read about the angel craze in America which has reached these shores, according to Mind and Body on page 14.

The most hardened cynics are portrayed as dinosaurs in our staffroom feature; according to a recent survey these "stone age obstructionists" are a serious threat to teaching because they disillusion the young keen ones. Fifty per cent of new recruits quit the profession by their third year, so something's got to change.

Sarah Bayliss Friday editor.

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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