A CARETAKER says he has been swept away by the reaction to his retirement after spending almost a quarter of a century at the forefront of school life.

Trevor Whitley, 64, has hung up his broom after 24 years at Alder Grange School in Rawtenstall.

The Calder Road school has organised an evening of celebration for Mr Whitley with former colleagues at Rossendale Rugby Club next Friday.

After starting in 1989, the site supervisor said he fell in love with the job - and his wife, Sylvia, who he met when she was a teaching assistant at the school.

He said: “I have seen four headteachers and three school extensions. I think when I started there were 330 children and 38 staff.

“Now there are 850 children and more than 100 staff - it has grown enormously.

“The job has also changed. Initially it was cleaning but then it became a lot more about site maintenance and I learned from experience.”

Mr Whitley, of Holland Avenue, Rawtenstall, said one of his career highlights was trading places with the school’s headteacher for a day.

He said: “Mrs McGrath was the headteacher and we had a Red Nose Day and she said to me she was becoming caretaker for the day and I was the head.

“I had to dress in her gown and go into classrooms and say ‘Good morning’ and the students had to say ‘Good morning Sir’ back. “That was a nice change but then it was back to the caretakers office the next day.”

A firm favourite with students, Mr Whitley, who stepped down last month, admitted he was still getting used to retirement.

He said: “Even now, if I walk around Bury or Rawtenstall I hear children, who are now adults, shout ‘Trevor’ at me.

“I can honestly say I have enjoyed my working life. You begin as colleagues but it soon turns to friendship with the teachers here.

“Alder Grange is a friendly school. It’s unbelievable but we have student teachers year after year who want to stay. They don’t want to leave and that’s the general consensus of everyone here.”

Head of school, Joanna Griffiths, said: “Trevor has been part of the fabric of Alder Grange and will be missed. All the staff and students love him.”