A MUCH-LOVED teaching assistant was thrown a surprise Bon Jovi-themed party to celebrate 40 years working in a Chester school.

Karen Newell started out in the nursery at The Arches Community Primary School in Blacon in 1979 moving on to help children in Reception and later Key Stage 2.

Adored by staff and pupils alike, she was bowled over when she turned up for work on Thursday (January 10) to find she was the subject of a special assembly.

Karen said: “I had no idea! I thought everyone had forgotten. It was such a shock to be greeted with party poppers and all the staff wearing Jon Bon Jovi masks!”

Lisa Johnson, teacher at The Arches, added: “She really thought no one was interested in her anniversary. The children have been fantastic at keeping everything a secret for about eight weeks.”

Each class performed a memory and sang a special version of ‘Always’ by Bon Jovi or danced. They also presented a book of memories to Karen.

There were faces from the past including Juliet Campbell and Sallie Mallon, who worked with Karen for many years.

A special video was shown at the assembly featuring warm wishes and congratulations from parents, colleagues and former staff.

Later in the day Karen enjoyed her favourite school dinner of steak pie with some of the children and bopped away at a disco complete with music from 1979.

Lisa added: “Karen is the kindest, most gentle and genuine person I have ever met. She is the absolute backbone of our purple family and today is all about celebrating her awesomeness.

“Karen has had such an enormous impact on so many Blacon families over the last 40 years. Today is our way of saying thank you and celebrating how lucky we are to have her at our school.”