School’s out after 40 years for Christine

Retiring caretaker at Tydd St Mary Primary School Christine Jackson (right) with (from left) Sonya Ripley, Abby, Neal and Charlie Jackson. Photo (MIKE DAVISON): SG100712-38MD
Retiring caretaker at Tydd St Mary Primary School Christine Jackson (right) with (from left) Sonya Ripley, Abby, Neal and Charlie Jackson. Photo (MIKE DAVISON): SG100712-38MD
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Christine Jackson has been a familiar face at Tydd St Mary Primary School for close on 40 years, but she is retiring today.

TO SOME, she is Mrs Jackson, to others Mrs J and even Nan, but one thing is certain: Christine Jackson is going to be sorely missed in September.

Christine (68), has decided it’s time to switch off her hoover, dispense with her site manager’s clipboards and retire after just short of 40 years at Tydd St Mary Primary School.

The past 17 years have been spent as school caretaker – and in the past four years alone she has overseen a major expansion at the school as well as the addition of a mobile classroom – and prior to that she was a lunchtime superviser, or dinner lady as Christine puts it.

However, she has always been far more than that to staff and children alike, with no birthday going unmarked without a little cake being baked by Christine, who also listens to the children reading.

She’s also the person everyone turns to when they need to know where the drains go, where the electricity wires are hidden and other essential information about the school and its grounds.

Headteacher Sonya Ripley says Christine also manages to keep track of lost PE shoes, ties and other items pupils lose, and says: “A lot of parents are worried next year that they will miss her because she does an awful lot of finding, fetching and carrying for a lot of people above and beyond her job description.”

Christine has earned the admiration of everyone in all kinds of ways, and Sonya points out they haven’t had a single snow closure in the last four years. She says: “That’s down to Christine being here at ridiculous hours of the morning and evening clearing snow. Neighbouring schools have closed but Christine always keeps ours open. She has had a 2am phone call because the alarms have gone off and had to come up with the police and check for break ins.”

Christine estimates the cleaning takes about four hours each day, but says: “Whatever happens the children come first, that’s my priority and always will be. The most important thing to me is that our children are happy and you get all these lovely smiling faces that greet you in the morning. It’s wonderful really. I have loved my job and the children and I have to thank the governors and the staff. It’s been a wonderful place to work for 40 years.”

It will be 40 years ago in May that Christine was asked to help out in the school canteen when they were short staffed. At that stage her son Neal was five and going to the school; now Neal brings his own children, Charlie (8) and Abby (6) to school – and it is they who call her Nan.

Although she is leaving the school – to be replaced in September by Steve Ely – Christine plans to carry on listening to the children read and her role as school governor will also continue.

Christine admits her emotions are mixed about her retirement: she will have more time to spend with husband Ralph, another familiar face around the school as he sweeps up leaves and paints fences, and the couple will be able to concentrate on a move from their house in Church Lane to a more convenient home in the village.

However, Christine says: “I am going to miss everybody, especially the children. I would just like to wish Sonya, the governors, staff and children all the best as the school goes forward.”

There is just one thing she won’t miss though, her particular bugbear – sticky fingerprints on glass.