John Vince

31st March 2006 at 01:00
John Vince retires this summer after 27 years as caretaker of St Mary's CE junior school in Oxted, Surrey. He's been, says head Alan Norgrove, "far and away the best caretaker I've ever had - and I've worked in eight primary schools".

The school's vice-chair of governors, Valerie Adamson, who nominated John for our flowers, chocolates and champagne, has known him since he started at the school and in all those years has never seen him cross or heard him grumbling.

He knows all the school's 360 pupils by name - and probably those of many of their parents. Valerie's children were at St Mary's more than 20 years ago, but she says they still have fond memories of John and are full of appreciation for all the little extras that he was (and still is) willing to do: everything from getting balls down off the school roof to trying to cheer up a pupil who's feeling miserable.

Alan Norgrove agrees and says John "does everything for everybody. If a child's glasses come apart, he'll get his screwdriver, go down the road to get a screw and mend them.

"He has such a good relationship with the children. He loves them and they love him. Children have a sense of when they're liked and they reciprocate."

John is also a regular in the dining room at lunchtime, where he can catch up with his wife Eileen, who works in the kitchen and who retires at the same time.

But he is most known for his willingness to turn his hand to any task. For instance, the school council is keen on recycling, so John makes sure that each classroom has a box for recycled paper.

He also helps out at the annual May Fayre, where Valerie Adamson says he does all sorts of tasks, "from helping to run a stall to finding extra lengths of electrical wire, helping to set up the tug of war, mowing part of the field for the crazy golf course, moving furniture and, of course, helping with all the extra clearing up at the end of the day". And all of this on what is supposed to be a day off.

As she says, he's going to be a hard act to follow.

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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