Hero teacher gives Tories a lesson in decency by delivering 7,500 meals for kids
EXCLUSIVE: Dropping off lunch and laptops to his pupils, hero teacher Zane Powles gives heartless Tories and their profiteer chums a lesson in decency.
Hero head, Zane Powles, 48, had knocked on Lewis’s front door and left five paper bags of food for him and his four siblings. Mr Powles takes a moment to check they have all been doing their work online during lockdown before heading off down the road to his next pupil.
The dad-of-three is loaded down with two massive rucksacks and a black bin liner full of packed lunches. He is clutching 12 paper bags full of school lunches topped up with extras he’s bought himself from Tesco because he was “horrified” at the rubbish allocated to their kids. And this morning Mr Powles, in shorts and trainers despite the biting cold, is also carrying an even heavier bag. One full of donated laptops for struggling families.
The assistant head from Western Primary School in Grimsby was given an MBE for his amazing efforts, delivering 138 meals a day to children – walking a total of 550 miles during last year’s first lockdown. He delivered 7,500 meals.
Now, with the school gates once again closed, he is back doing his special rounds, albeit with a limp, that he needs knee surgery to correct. The former Grenadier Guard, who used to protect the Queen, is now busy protecting the children of Grimsby.
This week we joined dad-of-three, Mr Powles, 48, on his special tour of duty. We’ll take you back to little Lewis’s doorstep, where he places the five packed lunches down and knocks, before retreating to the gate to keep a safe social distance.
Maria Tebbutt, 34, answers, surrounded by her children Lewis, Reece, six, Connor, five, Kayden, three and Mayzee, one. All still in their dressing gowns they are keen to say hello to their favourite teacher and grab their paper bags full of goodies.
Instead of just a ham roll, five or six carrots sticks, a piece of fruit and a small cookie, Mr Powle’s has added a yoghurt, a packet of raisins and a bag of crisps. “The original packed lunch they provide is rubbish in my opinion. I would be horrified if my kids were getting that!” he tells The Mirror.
“I can’t believe a company is profiting from our vulnerable children.”
Lewis’s mum, Maria, tells The Mirror how Mr Powles has been helping them survive lockdown. “What he’s been doing is amazing, he’s our hero. It’s a big help and we’d struggle without him,” she said. “The kids are missing school so much, it was a big shock when they closed them again.”
Lewis, holding his packet of crisps (the sneaky extra treat), says: “I think everyone should be more like Mr Powles. “He’s 100 per cent nice and really helpful. It’s been scary with everyone suffering from it (Covid) but it makes me happy to see Mr Powles. Most mornings I wait for him. “I like to thank him for saving the world and bringing our packed lunches and saving lives.”
Mr Powles next stop is mum-of-three, Joanna Kesson, 36, who bursts into tears when he tells her: “I’ve got a present for you. I’ve got a laptop”. Her youngest Phoebe, five, jumps up squealing with excitement and gives her upset mum a big hug. Her two boys, Paul, 11 and Alfie, nine, come to find out what all the fuss is about and grin with delight when they spot the laptop Asked why she’s crying, she says: “It means my kids are not going to get left behind. “That’s my main worry, so this laptop is a tremendous help.” But the mum explains she still has no internet, so Mr Powles promises to bring a dongle the next day so they can get online.
“My partner is on a zero hours contract and including my stepson. I have six to provide for. It’s a bit overwhelming. “What Mr Powles does is outstanding, he’s served the Queen and now he’s serving the children in Grimsby. “Everyone at the school has been amazing.”
Mr Powles is touched by her reaction and explains: “Some families have been trying to educate six children using one phone. “But other parents can’t even read and write and some haven’t got internet access. “Some parents have been struggling with the technology so I am able to help with that too at the gate. It can be a lifeline for them.” He also carries a list of names given to him by teachers, of pupils they worry are not working hard enough.
At one house where the child has made the list, he asks about their work and is told: “She doesn’t want to do it!” He says: “Tell her I want to talk to her”. A few minutes later the young girl reluctantly comes to face the music and promises to try harder. But it is the parents too, who seem to be getting some much needed support from Mr Powles.
One tearful mum blames herself and tells him she’s dyslexic and says: “I’m finding out I’m really, really not smart”. He tells the worried woman “that’s not true” and reassures her she is doing really well and to take regular breaks to make it less stressful.
Further down the road, mum Lisa Jones, 38, has seven children to cater for with her own and her teenage niece. Her children’s names are not on Mr Powles ‘list’ but says they are struggling. She tells Mr Powles of one son: “It took him six hours to do one piece of work, he just doesn’t know how to focus when he’s not in school. Home just isn’t school for them.” She tells us how I they start playing up, she warns them “Mr Powles is coming in the morning. I’m going to tell him.’
Tanya Leonard 44, who has five kids, was another to get a laptop. She has been struggling to help them learn using a broken tablet and one which is painfully slow. She says: “This is amazing because it has been really frustrating for them” and explains they have lost work when they’ve tried to send it. “It’s certainly given me more sympathy for teachers. I take my hat off to them.”.
Mr Powles has developed a huge fan club in Grimsby and during his rounds, a pensioner calls him over and hands him a bar of chocolate “to keep him going!” After hearing about the lockdown last Tuesday night, Mr Powles drove straight to Tesco and loaded up a trolley with school-funded food, ready for their “amazing” team to help package them up.
He said without these supplies some families would struggle to feed their children. “Poverty is just round the corner for us,” he says. “Some homes I’ve seen have no furniture in them, with a mattress on the floor. “I am worried about the effect this pandemic is having on some of our most vulnerable children.”
Mr Powles, who served in the guards for ten years and did four trooping of the colours, trained to become a teacher in his 30s. “I left school with no qualifications aged 16 and joined the army,” he explained. “So I tell our kids it’s never too late. “I’ve been a bin man, a milkman, an HGV driver, a factory worker”.
As we chat he spots one of his former pupils, now 17, having a cigarette on the doorstep and shouts: “Why you smoking Lizzy? That’s bad!” Moving on with a wave, Mr Powles, says he’d like to see more schools following their lead: “I hope other schools will do the same.
“I’m so lucky to work in such an amazing team at Western and I’m proud we are a local authority school that goes over and above every time for our children. “Our motto is ‘It is the school that cares’ and I think we’ve proved that!”