Big schools need intimate spaces for every pupil to feel included. That's what teaching assistant Marianne Gilbert achieves with her lunchtime "Glads club" at Brentford school for girls in Hounslow.
Marianne is hugely positive and has made "a big contribution to the school's inclusion work", says headteacher Sue Higgins. She brings energy and enthusiasm "to young people, her job and to life in general".
Like other teaching assistants, Marianne supports girls all over the school during lessons, but most lunchtimes and after school she's in the mobile doing craftwork for charity. "She encourages girls who might not join the mainstream clubs and who might find the rough and tumble of the typical lunchtime difficult," says Ms Higgins.
This is a multicultural school with a comprehensive intake. More than a third of girls are on free meals; voluntary work and helping others is highly valued.
Members of the Glads club are supporting three charities: Hounslow Toy Library, Age Concern and Portage, which works with disabled children.
Inspired by Marianne, the students produce all sorts of crafts for sale: making jewellery and key-rings, sewing lavender bags, decorating glass bottles and planting seeds. They run a monthly raffle - last month a giant teddy bear was donated by Harrods - and last weekend they had a free stall at Brentford farmers' market.
As a deputy head and patron of the Glads club, Victoria Eadie couldn't say no when asked to help run the stall. "Marianne's an absolute superstar and you just say yes. This is a very friendly school and our ethos is to really make everyone feel valued." On a recent visit Ofsted took note, and gave Brentford school for girls a "one" for inclusion.
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