Education: I will be devastated when my lollipopping comes to an end: You won't find them in the classroom, yet they play a big part in shaping a school's character. Sarah Strickland profiles the unsung heroes

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Louisa Berry, lollipop lady at St Gregory's Roman Catholic Primary School, Chorley, Lancashire.

I WAS a bus conductress during the war, it was either that or the Army. I could have learnt to drive, but I didn't on principle. I said I'm not taking men's jobs off them, it's their bread and butter. But I was a fool, now I wish I had learnt.

I worked in the carpet factory until it closed, then my friend Lily said: 'Why don't you go in for lollipopping, Louie?' So I did. Then, when Lily retired, I was transferred to her job here. I'm one minute's walk from home now.

I come out of the house at 8.20am and leave the crossing at 9.15am. That gives them 15 minutes' grace. If they've not come by then, they're not coming. I can tell you of every child that comes; if I'm one missing, I just know. I know most of their names. I wait and say: 'You're late again.'

In the afternoon I would never go and leave one of my children unattended. I sit them on the wall and wait until their parent comes. We play ball or they tell me things - like their mum's having a baby or they've got a boyfriend at school but they like somebody else as well. I say, 'Well you can't have both'.

I once got a bar of chocolate from a mum to thank me for waiting. I love it - I love all my children and my customers in cars. They wave to me, I make loads of friends. I've more followers than Marilyn Monroe and I've never had any harassment. There's one little girl, I must be her favourite, and I have to bend down while she kisses me. I ask her if she's eaten all her dinner and she gives me a drawing.

I have trained them and shouted at them so often that they know they don't cross until Louie comes into the middle of the road. I'll shout at the mums if they go first. 'You know very well you shouldn't do that,' I say.

When it's snowy I tell them not to run because it's slippery, but I might as well talk to myself. I've had cars nearly failing to stop and running up my backside, but nobody's touched me yet. If they come right close to me I just give them a dance.

I have rows and rows of cards at Christmas and I give them all cards. You should see the way some of them spell Louie]

I broke my shoulder recently and now it'll not go straight. I worked three days with it broken without knowing. I had never missed a day's work before then. Young people think you can't work with a cold, not like us old 'uns.

I don't want to finish lollipopping. I'll be devastated when it comes to an end. My friend did it till she was 80 - in those days as long as you were fit you could do it. It helps your pension, you can have little extras, and it keeps you young.

Now there's compulsory retirement at 75. I have to go for a medical this year and if I pass it I get another 12 months, which I think is all wrong if I'm fit to work. They are short-staffed anyway. People won't come and stand out in the pouring rain when they can earn more on the dole. It would do them good to stand in the rain for a measly half-hour's pay.

(Photograph omitted)

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