A popular teaching assistant has retired just days after her 65th birthday amid celebration and well-wishes from staff and pupils.

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Jill Sayer, who turned 65 last week, left Drake Infant School in Thetford where she taught hundreds of children and supported numerous lessons since joining in 1991.

After 21 years at the school, on Fairfields, she now intends to take it easy and put her feet up.

Her last days were celebrated with a special assembly in which youngsters read out poems they had written especially for the occasion.

Mrs Sayer, from Bridgham, whose husband has also recently retired, said: “The time is right to move on. I was a bit emotional in our assembly but I’ve had some good years and it’s time for another phase in my life.” Her work over the years has included supporting numeracy lessons, teaching phonics, one-to-one work with the pupils and in particular helping create a garden in the school grounds which she helped the youngsters tend to.

Mrs Sayer, who was presented with a vase and year’s membership to the National Trust as a leaving gift, added she would return to the school to help the children continue with it.

She said: “I think the nice thing about retirement is you don’t have to plan. It’s very nice not to be tied down to the school holidays and I’m going to garden and walk.

“I want to stop the connection completely though and will still come back to visit - it’s an important part of my life.

“Things have changed a lot from when I started but teaching assistants have always been an important part of the team in this school - we’ve always had a hands on role. “It’s been a very happy time and it’s been a good experience. It’s a very inclusive school and you learn a lot from people around you and the teaching staff over the years and they’ve been very supportive.

“The school has also encouraged training so I could continue with personal development.”

Head Mary Bartrop said Mrs Sayer had been her teaching assistant when she started at the school 18 years ago, and added she was “incredible”.

“It’s a credit to her that she’s been here for so long and affected so many children’s lives,” she said. “She’ll be sorely missed. We wish her a long and happy retirement.”

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