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Duchess of Cambridge congratulates school assistant on 50 years of service

The Duchess of Cambridge was among those who sent messages of congratulation to a member of staff who has been at a Cambridgeshire primary school for 50 years.

Gillie Pluck first started at Harston and Newton Primary School in 1971 as the first general assistant at the school. The school hall had just been built (before that the children walked to the village hall for their lunches) and she has been supervising lunchtimes ever since.

Gillie has now worked for seven different headteachers over the years and seen several generations of some families pass through the school.

The school hosted a tea party to celebrate Mrs Pluck’s achievement and she received letters from the Duchess of Cambridge and the director of education for Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council, Jon Lewis, acknowledging her service, as well as a card from the children. She said: “I love my job and have never not wanted to come to work. I hope to continue for a few more years yet.”

Gillie Pluck is celebrating 50 years at Harston and Newton Primary School (51336279)
Gillie Pluck is celebrating 50 years at Harston and Newton Primary School (51336279)

Siobhan Rouse, the current headteacher of Harston and Newton Primary School, said: “Gillie is at the heart of the school community. She was the first person I spoke to when I rang up to arrange a visit to the school before I applied for the post. She knows all the children, and almost all the parents, and always has a smile and a cheerful word for people.

“Mrs Pluck is still the senior mid-day supervisor and the children love her. They missed her during the first lockdown when (like many older people) she was shielding at home.”

Initially Mrs Pluck’s work also included helping teachers with classroom preparation tasks and caring for children who were unwell. Over the years the role evolved into that of a teaching assistant where she heard children read, helped with group work and was responsible for running the school library. During this time Gillie went on many residential trips – including ones on canal boats where she also cooked meals for the children.

Mrs Pluck also worked in the school office for many years. She answered the phone, dealt with queries from parents, completed dinner numbers each day and for many years counted and banked dinner money. This only stopped with the outbreak of Covid and the move to on-line payment in school. When the school opened a breakfast club in 2004, Gillie was appointed as leader, a post she continued until September 2019.

Cllr Bryony Goodliffe, chair of Cambridgeshire County Council’s children and young people’s committee, said: “Gillie Pluck is an inspiration, not only to the children of Harston and Newton but to children everywhere. It is rare to find the depth of dedication she has shown and I feel privileged to be joining the Duchess of Cambridge and the director of education in extending the heartfelt thanks and congratulations of everyone at Cambridgeshire County Council.”

Committee vice chair Cllr Maria King added: “As a parent of two children who attended Harston and Newton Primary School I have personally experienced the warmth and support Mrs Pluck gives to all the children and parents in her care. I am delighted to offer Mrs Pluck my enormous gratitude for her dedication and commitment to our community and our children."

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