Chris Baker

28th May 2004 at 01:00
Chris Baker is the learning mentor at Mixenden primary school in Halifax, Calderdale.

Two years ago she was the first learning mentor to be appointed in this authority and has set an example for others to follow. Her ability to work on her own initiative with children and families, to liaise with other agencies and to be an ambassador for the school have all proved her worth, says headteacher Sue Hardcastle, who has seen the role replicated in other schools.

"She plans her day, and her day is very full," says Miss Hardcastle. It starts with a "walking bus" for the infant classes, which sometimes arrives with as many as 18 children. Raising attendance was a priority for Chris; she has even employed parents to staff the "bus" and spread the word.

The school serves an estate with high unemployment, and another priority was to engage with older pupils who'd grown disaffected. Earlier this month, Chris helped run a breakfast club for Year 6 children doing their national tests. Some treats and surprises are planned before the end of term.

Chris has hired a minibus locally to take the juniors to sporting fixtures and they have often returned with "fair play" awards. "It's been exciting going to other schools," says Bella, a Year 6 pupil who plays netball and football. Shane, aged 11, agrees, saying he likes hockey and cricket.

"Anyone can talk to Mrs Baker and she's a good referee. She participates and sorts out any arguments."

Sadly, Mixenden primary has an uncertain future, having been in special measures. A decision on closure will be announced next month. Our flowers, chocolates and champagne were requested by Jo Woodhead, a deputy head who used to teach with Chris. She believes all the staff at Mixenden are heroes, "pulling together in true community style".

Is there an unsung hero in your school? Tell Sarah Bayliss, TESFriday editor, about him or her at the address below. Flowers kindly supplied by Marks amp; Spencer

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