I didn’t want to quit at 65, says Holloway school caretaker

A SCHOOL caretaker says he is angry that he was forced out of his job and home of 31 years as soon as he turned 65 – even though his wife still works there at the age of 75.

Chris Yourell, who was 65 in November, had been a popular figure at Duncombe Primary School, in Sussex Way, Upper Holloway, since 1979.

Parents have said the school is not the same without him. He was told in June that he would have to retire on New Year’s Eve – and be out of the caretaker’s house the same day.

He said: “I had worked there since 1979 and I loved the job. I got on very well with all the children, parents and members of staff. I gave my life to the job – and then they forced me out.”

Mr Yourell, who is now living in Grays, Essex, appealed against the decision but was turned down. He had wanted to stay on only until the end of the school year – but was told it was school policy that all staff must retire at the end of the term during which they reach retirement age.

Yet, his wife Caroline only retires as a cleaner at the school this month – at the age of 75.

Said Mr Yourell: “The management said it is their policy – but my wife still works there and she’s 75,” he said. “One lady retired at the age of 79. I wanted to stay on just a few more months. I worked there for 31 years and now I’ve been flung on the scrap heap and chucked out of my home and given no assistance whatsoever – just told to get out and give the keys back.”

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Headteacher Barrie O’Shea said nobody at the school works beyond retirement age, but admitted: “Mr Yourell’s wife was older, but that only came to light recently, and now she is retiring this month.”

He added that Mr Yourell was given more than six months notice. He said: “The only reason he left is that he came to retirement age. He didn’t want to go, but our policy is for people to retire when they reach that age.

“We gave him until the end of term and we wanted to have a big celebration to say thank you for all his work – but he didn’t want it. He took it very badly. It ended on a bad note and I’m very upset about that.”

Susan Wallace, 41, of Sussex Way, a mother-of-six who has sent all of her children to Duncombe, and who has three there now, said: “He will be sadly missed by all the parents. It’s not the same without him. For mums like me, who have known him for a long time, he’s like part of the family.

“All the children know Chris and he’s always been there for them. He’s a great guy and he did a lot for the children.

“He’s still full of life and he’s not ready to retire. They should have allowed him to stay on for a bit longer.”