Unsung Heroes: Grandads who teach schoolchildren how to paint

Surrey Comet: Michael Ward and Phil Gill Michael Ward and Phil Gill

Two grandads pop into an infants’ school to help children with art and one-to-one reading every week.

Retired police officer Michael Ward and former cabin-serviceman Phil Gill, who have been a couple for more than 30 years, drop into Coombe Hill Infants’ School for storytime and a spot of painting.

The pair decided on taking on the afternoon of fun at the Coombe Lane West site after they were asked to pick up their six-year-old grandson Elliott from school once a week.

In the last year the couple from West Molesey have only missed two days.

Mr Ward, 67, now a part-time registrar in Richmond, said: “We tend to shove everything out of the way for school.

“Elliott enjoys us being there, but he doesn’t make a fuss over us and neither do we. He comes in for his bit of reading and then he’s off.

“They are amazing children. I don’t think I was that bright at that age – in fact I know I wasn’t. They soak up everything like sponges.”

His civil partner and fellow unsung hero, Mr Gill, 60, joked: “If you have anything wrong with your tablet or iPad – go to Coombe Hill year One – they will sort it out for you.”

Father-of-two Mr Ward added they particularly enjoyed helping children make eye patches and treasure maps for their studies on pirates and building waterproof sheds using branches in Painshill Park, Cobham, recently.

Mr Gill said: “Seeing the children progress from when they first started, it is something. They have so much more confidence and their enthusiasm just rubs off on to you.”

The couple who enjoy walking and skiing holidays together also participate in charity cake sales for the school.

Mr Ward said: “I do enjoy it. Every class has a cake sale and Phil is a dab hand at baking, but sometimes it doesn’t get past the staff room.”

Mr Gill added: “I’ve done a couple of cakes this year. It has gone down a real treat. The badger class [Elliott’s class] stall always does really well.”

On being nominated he said: “We are over the moon. It was the last thing we were expecting. When you enjoy doing something so much it is a real bonus.”

Headteacher Janet Berry said: “Our unsung heroes do so much.

"They support the teacher whatever is asked of them. They are always willing to help with anything, are enthusiastic, fun, encouraging, supportive and have a wonderful sense of humour.”

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