Thomas Aveling

15th April 2005 at 01:00
Thomas Aveling was the 19th-century engineer credited with inventing the steamroller. So he'd be glad to know that in the school they named after him in his hometown of Rochester in Kent, they like to keep things running smoothly.

Central to the efficient operation of the school is senior caretaker Anita Colyer. She's been there since it opened in 1990, and her work ethic would give even the most industrious Victorian a run for their money.

She often arrives at school by 6am, in time to set up for the day and help out with the breakfast club. During a working day filled with all the usual odd jobs, she finds time to help with lunchtime supervision and the after-school cleaning team, often ending up as the last person to leave in the evening.

Once a week Anita runs a "Groundforce" after-school gardening and nature conservation club, looking after flower beds and encouraging wildlife in the ancient woods opposite the school. She is happy to take pupils under her wing as part of the school's mentoring scheme, and will often welcome work experience pupils into her three-person caretaking team.

"The school would fall down without her," says Thelma Taylor, the school's head of humanities, who nominated Anita for our flowers, champagne and chocolates. "Thomas Aveling has more than 1,100 children on roll, but Anita knows nearly all of them by name and always takes an interest in their news. She is wonderful with the children and she really looks after the staff. She is one in a million."

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

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