Friday Hero

13th January 2006 at 00:00
Thanks for doing a brilliant job

Since the day photocopiers were invented - or at least since one was installed at Great Coates primary school in Grimsby - Irvine Sylvester has been its guardian. So, the workload agreement has made no difference here; teachers at Great Coates have never done their own photocopying - they don't even try!

For 25 years Irvine, who inherited her first name from a Scottish great aunt's surname, was a clerical assistant - the clerical assistant - at this 300-pupil primary for three to 11-year-olds. "It was awful when she had to retire," says headteacher Anne Kay, who nominated her for our flowers, champagne and chocolates. "She was irreplaceable."

She had begun as a parent-helper when her own children were pupils and now, in her third age, Irvine is a volunteer again as a school governor, office helper and general factotum. (It was Irvine who answered the telephone when The TES rang on the first day of term.) "Basically, if we're short, if someone's out or there's something special going on, she's here. She knows all sorts of things, such as where to find the costumes for the school play."

It is Irvine's deep knowledge of the local community, combined with her direct and friendly manner, that makes her especially valuable to Mrs Kay.

"She speaks as she sees and doesn't hold back from asking things. She knows all our families and who is related to whom; everybody knows Irvine.

"She's the living embodiment of what a school community is all about.

Hard-working, self-effacing and always willing to help others, she is totally committed to improving the life chances of all the children."

But it's not all work and no play with Irvine; she loves her life, her granddaughter and the holidays. "Basically she's a sun worshipper and just loves to be in the hot sunshine in Spain," says Anne Kay. "She gets tired, recharges her batteries and comes back a live wire again."

And to think that Cleethorpes and the North Sea is only five miles down the road. Roll on summer.

Heroes are out there, but we need you to reveal them in all their glory.

Think of the person in your school - teacher, classroom assistant, governor, cook - who always goes the extra mile. Then tell us about them in a letter or email to Sarah Bayliss at the address above left. Go on, they deserve recognition. (Flowers kindly supplied by Marks Spencer)

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