Friday Hero

10th February 2006 at 00:00
Thanks for doing a brilliant job

If you ever visit Kingsbridge community college in Devon - they were interviewing for a new head of sixth form just last week - the first two people you'll meet are Penny Glover and Penny's Year 8 helper: a different child every day of the school year.

Penny and her helper sit on reception. It's a welcoming system inspired by assistant principal Wendy Ohlson, who is such a fan of Penny she's nominated her for this week's flowers, champagne and chocolates.

A former school secretary in a village primary school, Penny is "a people person", a reassuring face, always ready with "a smile, a chat or cheerybye". Her three sons were all pupils; the eldest has a degree and after work experience at Kingsbridge this term is planning to train as a teacher. This is a science and maths specialist college with 1,300 pupils serving a big catchment area, but Penny can put a name to virtually every face.

As the school's receptionist, she is a vision of "multi-tasking in action"

who manages to "maintain a calm aura and a smile when asked to do a trillion jobs at once", says Ms Ohlson. Unassuming and friendly, Penny supplies tea and a listening ear. In short, says Ms Ohlson, "she's like our mum at school".

The Year 8 role on reception is part of citizenship at Kingsbridge, which prides itself on being "a true comprehensive" with outstanding results; 78 per cent gained five top GCSE grades last summer. There are lots of visitors and the child on duty is expected to welcome them, answer the phone, take messages and learn from Penny.

"This could try the patience of a saint, as every day she has to explain the phone system, encourage, remind and talk through public relations. But she manages beautifully, channelling the energy of the over-enthusiastic children who want to zip round and try all the jobs and buttons at once!"

Recently Penny was absent from school, and the place just didn't feel the same. "We felt lost and realised what an enormous contribution she makes,"

says a very grateful Ms Ohlson.

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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