Four generations of dinner ladies

L to R: Charlotte with mum Alison and pictures of relatives Ivy-May and Sheila who also worked at the school.

Dinner ladies have been the mainstay of the school dining room for years – now a local family has seen four generations working at the same place since the 1970s.

Mum of three Charlotte Brine (27), a past pupil herself of Ilminster Avenue Specialist Nursery School is the latest member – joining in February.

She says “…I’m in class 5 with the Special Needs children. I sit down with them and help them cut up food – because some children can’t eat big pieces…  It’s different from a mainstream school. I like the fact it’s mixed and everyone is together.”

She remembers when mum Alison (50) was a dinner lady helping out in the 90s while on placement training to be a teacher: “…. I used to be embarrassed having to see her at school. I think she was serving…”

Her grandmother Sheila Thorne and great-grandmother Ivy May Durston, who have since passed away, were at the school in the 1970s – at the same time when Alison was a pupil.

Alison remembers: “My mum and nan were dinner ladies when I was in the Infants and Juniors. My mum used to serve dinners but my nan was outside with the children.

“My nan was strict but my mum wasn’t – she let a lot of kids get away with things. We used to go up for second helpings and she said the ones who looked hungry she would give extra!”

Alison thinks one of the reason they have all come to the school is not only the “lovely atmosphere” there but the fact they all come from big families and are used to being around children.

She says: “There’s a satisfaction knowing you have done something to help…”

Charlotte who studied Childcare at school agrees – having always wanted to work with children.

She and Alison say that lunch times have definitely changed over the years – as has the food.

She says: “You had to be quiet, now they all chat to their friends, they sit down and have a gossip. The dinner ladies used to scare us but not my mum!

“When I was little the dinner lady served food and walked round to see if we were eating our dinner. I actually sit down with the children.”

Alison liked some of the meals especially “the school stew” but has been put off vegetables for life because of the boiled cabbage.

“Your plate had to be cleaned. When I was training to be a teacher and on placement you were taught never to force a child.”

Charlotte has good memories of roast dinners which are still her favourite – but recalls that the meals were “not as healthy as they are now”.

In future she may be hanging up her tabard – as she plans to follow in her mum’s footsteps and go on to do further training.

She says: “I’m hoping to train to be a teaching assistant as I help in the classroom sometimes and its very rewarding.”