THERE is nothing showy or ostentatious about the board attached to railings outside Halton Moor’s Corpus Christi Catholic College.
No bigger than a broadsheet newspaper and fixed with cable ties, at first glance it could be a sign about the school’s opening hours or perhaps a summer fair.
Move closer, however, and it quickly becomes clear that this is in fact a touching tribute to Ann Maguire, Corpus Christi’s long-serving and much-missed ‘mother’.
A photo of a smiling Mrs Maguire sits on its left hand side, above words reading: “Nothing is so precious as the memory that lives on.”
To the right are just a few of the many hundreds of personal messages that flooded into the school after the mum-of-two’s death a year ago today.
One, from Andrew Diamond, a former pupil who went to Corpus Christi in the late 1970s and early 1980s, says: “She radiated charm, warmth and caring for the years I was there.”
A note from another pupil of the 1980s, Debbie Capitano, describes Mrs Maguire as a “wonderful teacher [and] wonderful person”.
The message from Connor Lindsay, who attended the school more recently, reads: “I will never forget the effort you made in my school life to keep me in line.
“I wasn’t the best behaved lad in school and a lot of teachers would have given up and let me get on with it, you didn’t.
“I thank you for believing in me and will never forget you.”
Originally from Wigan, Mrs Maguire – then Miss Connor – arrived at Corpus Christi in 1973 as a student doing her teacher training.
It proved to be the start of an enduring and very special relationship between the member of staff, the school and generations of children.
Her central position in the Corpus Christi community was underlined in 2013 when an Ann Maguire Award was established to mark her 40 years of service in its classrooms.
It was set up with the intention of recognising Year 11 pupils who had shown the most “dedication, industry and progress”.
Speaking to the school magazine at the time, Mrs Maguire said: “I’ve never wanted to leave here.
“Corpus children are very special to me. They are our finest ambassadors – hard-working, friendly, fun to be with and genuinely pleasant, polite young people.”
Discussing the magic formula that makes for a successful teacher, she added: “You have to love children and be in tune with their individual needs.
“Children are fascinating. Every child is different and you have to adapt your approach to each one.
“I’ve always tried to be myself and make a connectiohn with each child – tuning in with their needs and encouraging them to aspire.”
The extent to which Mrs Maguire managed to do exactly that was plain to see in the days that followed her death.
More than 1,000 bunches of flowers were laid outside Corpus Christi’s gates as the school tried to come to terms with the loss of the woman described by headteacher Steve Mort as its “cornerstone”.
One week on from the tragedy, hundreds of youngsters gathered on the school fields to release balloons in the 61-year-old’s memory.
Speaking at the end of last week, Mr Mort praised the resilience and strength shown by staff and students over the last 12 months.
He said: “My colleagues worked hard to maintain a sense of normality for our students in the aftermath of last April, and it is a tribute to their professionalism and dedication that this was achieved.
“Our students achieved the college’s best ever GCSE results last summer, demonstrating a collective determination to do the best they possibly could in Ann’s memory. We were all extremely proud of their achievements.
“As a school we remain focused on our work to raise standards and attainment across the college, and to support all of our young people to achieve their full potential.
“We have all drawn great strength and comfort from knowing that this was Ann’s life’s work.”
Today students will attend Mass and hold a one-minute silence for Mrs Maguire, with a permanent memorial also being planned for the school site.
Corpus Christi may have lost its mother but her spirit lives on in the hearts and minds of the children that meant so much to her.