Bouquet of the week;Pearle Turtle

9th July 1999 at 01:00
This is the farewell issue of Friday Magazine until after the summer break and it's appropriate that our cover story is devoted to the first National Teaching Awards. Public, top-level praise for teachers has arrived and marks a change in the climate which we called for 18 months ago when this magazine was launched.

Our Bouquet of the Week is a gesture carrying the same message - that individuals make a difference and that schools thrive on them. These are the unsung heroes who make things happen and inspire others.

On Sunday millions of viewers tuning to BBC1 will see 125 finalists and their families enjoying an Oscar-style ceremony which praises them all to the hilt. And when the 14 winners are called to the podium we can expect modesty and speeches in praise of teamwork. We'll see filmed clips of the teachers in action and of their pupils who are proud to be part of a success story and happy that their schools have won pound;20,000 cheques for new resources.

The Awards, master-minded by Lord Puttnam, have proved many sceptics wrong. All the teaching unions got involved and profess to have been slightly overwhelmed. "We've tapped into something bigger," as Nigel de Gruchy tells Wendy Wallace in our feature story.

Today, with teachers firmly in the national spotlight, I've chosen a different kind of gem for the last bouquet of term. She's Mrs Pearl Turtle, soon to be 70, and about to retire as a midday supervisor from Dover Park County primary school and nursery on the Isle of Wight after more than 30 years.

She's done playground duty every lunchtime since 1969. She started when her third child joined the reception class and Pearl thought "Whatever shall I do now?" Well, the head put a notice on the school gate saying Dinner Lady Wanted. Pearl has never looked back and now her grandchildren are pupils at the school.

She loves children and the companionship of the school cook and the other women who make lunchtime run smoothly. Over the years their hours have been cut but according to headteacher Pat Ford, Pearl is a marvel when it comes to playground disputes, grazed knees and spilt drinks. "We'll miss her very much."

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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