Friday Hero

24th February 2006 at 00:00
Think of Edna Harper at work this week, skiing in bright sunshine and fresh snow at Aviemore in Inverness-shire, home of winter sports in Britain.

She's on a school trip with pupils from Kinloss primary school.

So, there are perks to the job of classroom assistant in Scotland - though, given the vagaries of Scottish weather there could be a howling gale, freezing horizontal rain or cloud so low you can't see the tips of your skis. Edna Harper is just the kind of person teachers can't do without on a school trip: reliable, unflappable, friendly, caring and really good fun.

She's a popular member of the team and, until this academic year, worked exclusively with principal teacher Stephanie Whittaker, who nominated her for our flowers, champagne and chocolates. "You can throw anything at her and she does it happily, only even better than you'd dreamed," says Ms Whittaker. "She's adaptable and always ready to learn."

Kinloss primary is a village school with a difference. Beside the sea - Findhorn Bay is "just round the corner"- and with beautiful views of the snow-capped Cairngorms, its neighbour is RAF Kinloss, home to the RAF's fleet of Nimrod aircraft which perform air, sea and mountain rescue. While some pupils are Scottish and local, many have parents in the air force. So the school's roll is highly mobile and new children arrive every week from airbases around Britain, sometimes from Cyprus or Germany. In a class of 11-year-olds perhaps as few as eight children started at the school in the nursery.

"The children have lived in all sorts of places and are generally very good at making friends and being flexible," says Ms Whittaker. "It's a happy school and a great place to have a childhood."

Recently the school roll has fallen and two schools have merged on the Kinloss site; a unit for autistic children has been integrated into the main school. Sadly for Stephanie Whittaker, the changes have meant Edna Harper has been moved from classroom duties to working one to one with a boy with special needs, but she remains an essential member of staff. "She is a treasure and I miss her, but we've got a great team," says Ms Whittaker.

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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