Thanks for doing a brilliant job

16th January 2004 at 00:00
Debbi Barnes is community school liaison worker at Greenstead St Andrew's nursery and infants' school in Colchester, Essex.

This is a new kind of job recommended by Essex county council after the school went into special measures with children's behaviour as a key concern. Greenstead is a big council estate on the outskirts of Colchester and parents were barely involved in the life of the school.

In September 2002 Debbi, a former education welfare officer, arrived.

Weekly coffee mornings began and visiting speakers were booked - a school nurse, a local doctor, a crime prevention officer and someone to talk about family finance. Courses were devised - how to help your child with English, maths, ICT and first aid - and a parent-teacher association was formed. By April 2003 the school was out of special measures.

Debbi has become a crucial link between parents, teachers and other agencies. She makes home visits, organises university students to help with school clubs, writes a monthly newsletter, and more. Heather Shield, the school's special needs co-ordinator, who nominated her for our flowers, champagne and chocolates, says: "She's an inspiration."

Last term a six-week workshop brought fathers and children to school to relax and have fun. "We had 13 dads and 31 children every Saturday," says head Jackie Breeze. "Even on the rugby World Cup final day - although we did have the TV on in the corner."

Now the school has turned another corner, obtaining funds to convert the empty caretaker's house into a parents' centre. Debbi will have a permanent base - and it's all happened in four terms.

Is there an unsung hero in your school? Tell Sarah Bayliss, TES Friday editor, about him or her at the address on the right. Flowers kindly supplied by Marks amp; Spencer

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