Bouquet of the week;Audrey Mitton

11th June 1999 at 01:00
Any teacher will tell you time is precious - very. Especially when your pupils are young. If they're going to love learning they need friendly adults to listen, understand and explain. And that takes time.

Audrey Mitton is that kind of adult. She gives time generously because it's in her nature, and because she knows it works - for her and for children. Audrey is a classroom volunteer at Water Street primary in Skipton, North Yorkshire, where she's also a "full-time dinner lady", meaning she's paid for an hour a day.

She has two daughters, Kirsty and Laura, at the school and never says no when help is needed. She helps in the library, takes reading groups and cooking, supports violin lessons and accompanies school trips. Nominating her for Bouquet of the Week, headteacher Jean McCrickard says Audrey is "generous to a fault". She also seems to know instinctively when teachers need a boost, and bakes lovely cakes. "If you need someone, Audrey always says yes," says Mrs McCrickard. "She's the kind of Mum who makes all the difference when you want to offer extra activities."

Audrey, whose own mother is still a dinner lady in Richmond, North Yorks, left school at 15 and became a nanny. She's still in touch with some of the children but gave it up when she had her own. She says she loves being involved with Water Street and has spent recent weeks on the art table in the reception class. "At first some of the children didn't like art but when you get them talking and thinking, it's nice. Now they say they love it."

The school has seen much change in the past three years, with a new head and 11 new staff. But it sounds like a happy school - the choir, which includes Laura Mitton, sang at a teacher's wedding on Whit Saturday, taken there by Mum, of course. Well done Audrey, and thank you.

This week's cover story focuses on bullying, a subject which just won't go away. From September, anti-bullying policies will be essential in every school. But a piece of paper is no substitute for action. London head William Atkinson says you can never be complacent about this issue and at Gray's School in Essex, practical measures include a bully box - a kind of confidential postbox for pupils to "tell". Every school needs to be a telling school.

Sarah Bayliss Friday editor

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