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Mary has a date with The Queen

PUBLISHED: 21:00 09 April 2003 | UPDATED: 13:43 03 March 2010

SHE'S seen thousands of children starting their school life and taking their first few steps towards independence, and now Mary Rackham's work has been honoured by The Queen.

SHE'S seen thousands of children starting their school life and taking their first few steps towards independence, and now Mary Rackham's work has been honoured by The Queen.

The grandmother from Ipswich went to Buckingham Palace to collect the MBE awarded to her in the Birthday Honours' list – awarded to mark her 25 years as governor of her local school.

Mrs Rackham, who has devoted her time to being governor of Sidegate Primary School, isn't keeping the award to herself – she's busy planning a whole-school celebration later in the year.

The 600-pupil school has always been close to her heart – it's opposite her home and both her children – Richard now 35, and Jane, 31, were pupils there.

They joined her for the trip to London along with her husband Barry, the former managing director of Eastern Counties Newspaper Group in Ipswich.

And to make it a real family celebration they travelled to London the night before and took in the musical My Fair Lady before the big day.

"The next day we got up and walked down to Buckingham Palace," she said.

"It was just lovely. It was all red and gold, with crystal chandeliers. T

"The investiture took place in the ballroom - a band was playing music from the gallery and there were about 500 people in the audience.

"I went up to the dais where the Queen was standing and gave her a little curtsey – more of a bob really.

"She pinned the medal onto me and shook my hand. Even though I only spoke to her for a few minutes about the school, I felt as if I had had a real conversation with the monarch.

"She was just charming and made me feel so special. It was a very privileged moment. I felt very proud."

Mrs Rackham, who first became a governor when her children were at the school, has seen many changes over the years.

She said: "In the old days, the school was quite austere. There were long, bare, flagstone corridors, with lots of classrooms leading off them.

"Now we have colourful classrooms and brand new computer suites – a school fit for the 21st century.

"But the real highlight was about five years ago when we got rid of the mobile classrooms and finally got all the children under one roof."

Mrs Rackham, who is still a governor at Sidegate School, cannot imagine a more rewarding job.

"You cannot be miserable when you are working with children," she said. "The greatest reward is seeing that children are happy, hearing them laugh and knowing that they are achieving academically."


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