STUDENTS and staff at The Abbey School came together for a whole school assembly at the end of the spring term to mark the retirement of Marion Smith, who has been a teaching assistant there since April 1990 and achieved her 25 year-long service award from Surrey County Council in 2015.

The Abbey has more or less doubled in size during Marion’s time and she has seen four headteachers and over 400 students come and go.

Having a degree in biological sciences, she has used her knowledge and skills to play an invaluable support role in the teaching of science, leading groups of students as well as acting as a science technician.

Marion also worked as a home school link worker at one time and has over the years supported students in very many ways including with GCSE maths, physio and occupational therapy and the school gardening club.

She was awarded her higher level teaching assistant diploma in August 2008.

Students have benefited hugely from her extensive knowledge of, and enthusiasm for, the natural world, and her personal experiences of bird watching and environmental projects.

Marion also liaised with local Riding for the Disabled volunteers, to ensure students can enjoy horse-riding opportunities which are of great benefit to both their physical and emotional well-being.

The Abbey senior teaching assistant, Tessa van Woerkom, said: “Marion has been an invaluable member of the school and an excellent team-player; frequently exceeding the call of duty.

“She displays 100 per cent commitment and a thoroughly professional and caring attitude towards the students, forever patient and nurturing, yet firm when required.

“Marion is very well-respected by her colleagues who can always rely on her for sound advice, moral support and, as a stalwart of staff social events, her good company.”

Marion will be greatly missed by the students, who all have learning and additional needs, and by her colleagues who gave her flowers and a variety of gifts themed to her hobbies.

She has promised to come back on a voluntary basis and to bring reports from her planned travels.