Bouquet of the week

25th September 1998 at 01:00
How did you get your first job? As a young graduate, Margaret Forster enjoyed teaching but found it "too exhausting". Our feature on page 6 reveals how she and other celebrities gained their first pay packet - and reminds us how learning and earning go hand in hand.

Joan Askew, winner of Friday magazine's Bouquet of the Week, has not stopped learning throughout her career. Since 1974, she has worked at Rathmell Church of England Primary School in rural north Yorkshire, first as classroom assistant, then as caretaker, and now as secretary, clerk to the governors, specialist teaching assistant, caretaker and book-keeper. In her spare time she has brought up four children, trained as an STA and run a playgroup. She is, says Lesley Dix, headteacher of Rathmell, "the linchpin of the school".

With her days tightly time-tabled to fit in adminstrative work, literacy hour support for reception children, learning support for key stage 1 and general maintenance of the building, Joan Askew is "loved by everyone in the school, " says Mrs Dix. Over the past 23 years, Mrs Askew has been welcoming pupils to the building - "very much a community school," says Mrs Dix - set in some of Britain's loveliest countryside. Now, she says, "not only do I know all the children in the village, I've known most of their parents since they were children".

Although Rathmell has only 38 pupils, it is a hive of activity, with after-school clubs every day of the week, an active parent-teachers' association and ongoing projects like an environment day involving staff, governors, pupils and parents in landscaping play and garden space.

Joan Askew is, says Lesley Dix, a "fairy godmother" to staff and pupils at Rathmell. "There's nothing she won't help with. She is dedicated to working with enthusiasm and pride in all that she attempts."

Fairy godparents in quite another way, staff at Brent Adolescent Centre in north London help young people in crisis to transform their lives. Our feature on page 4 traces some of Brent's success stories - young people who were hanging fire on the edge of adult life and who were enabled to take that first job and hopefully to find, like Joan Askew, that "I really enjoy my life very much".

Bouquet of the Week is given in association with Marks 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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