Friday Hero

17th January 2003 at 00:00
Les Parkes is the caretaker and midday lunch supervisor at Westhoughton Parochial C of E primary school near Bolton

Les is one in a million, according to acting headteacher Sandra Finley who nominated him for our flowers, champagne and chocolates. "He's the kind of person you'd like as a neighbour, who everyone turns to and who never thinks twice when asked for help."

Well known in Westhoughton, a small town outside Bolton, he is a keen volunteer in the community, doing shopping for the elderly and helping with charity work for the mentally disabled. He arrived at the school about 15 years ago and was given his lunchtime role because children and adults liked and respected him. "He's so calm and sensible and always sorts out any problems with the children," says Sandra Finley.

Each December Les spends a weekend putting up Christmas decorations, helped by his wife Margaret and sister-in-law Shirley. They transform the school hall, a Grade II listed building with arched windows and stained glass. This year it became a winter wonderland, with flying snowmen, a partridge in a pear tree, a nativity scene, the 12 days of Christmas and twinkling lights.

"When they walk into assembly that first Monday every child just says, 'Wow'," says Sandra Finley. "He makes our school a magical scene."

She has been especially grateful for his help this year when headteacher Peter Naylor has been on secondment and when the brown envelope announcing an Ofsted inspection arrived as she was stepping into his shoes. The school, which has 198 pupils aged four to 11, was judged to be a good one, with a happy, welcoming attitude. Just like Les Parkes, in fact.

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