Bouquet of the week;Frank Meakin

2nd July 1999 at 01:00
Sometimes the virtue in staying put and doing the same thing year after year goes unsung. Yet schools and pupils can benefit hugely from the constancy of people and places. And so it is at Sedley's Church of England primary school, a Kent village school which recently celebrated its 375th anniversary and where Mr Frank Meakin is about to retire after 52 years as a school governor.

Headteacher Alison Coppiters has been at the school a mere ten months and appreciates its deep sense of history. The school, in Southfleet near Gravesend, was founded under ancient charter by Sir John Sedley, who offered free education long before it was commonplace. "We are one of the oldest schools in the country," says Alison, "and we must have one of Britain's longest serving governors."

Nominating Mr Meakin for our Bouquet of the Week, she says he has always been an active governor who knows the school inside out. "He makes such interesting observations and has given us very long service."

Mr Meakin is a farmer, growing hops and fruit. He arrived in the village in 1948 and the same year was asked to join the school board. Now aged 78, he knows three generationsof most local families, and has fought off at least one attempt to close the school. Today, with 87 children on roll aged 4-11 and four teachers, its future looks secure.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed my time," he says. "I think it's very important to be part of the community and to get on with it. If the school had closed it would have been a very sad day for the village."

Chairman of governors is the Reverend Goble, who knows Mr Meakin as a church warden too. He describes him as "discreet and very wise - someone people can turn to in complete confidence. He is held in great affection and will be missed by everyone".

Our cover story this week focuses on the task facing new headteachers who have been appointed to run schools that haven't opened yet - and in some cases are still being built. Without pupils or staff, it seems a strange but exciting way way to begin a headship - building from the ground upwards. These are the schools for the new millennium, and they'll be looking for governors too. Let's hope they find some characters like Mr Meakin.

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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