The last time Emma McCormack was in a classroom at Saint John Houghton Catholic Voluntary Academy she was answering questions in French.

Twelve years on and she was answering the most important question of her life – a marriage proposal from boyfriend Matt Bettinson in the room where they first met.

The plan to propose at Saint John was put into by action by Matt with help from three of their school friends, head teacher Joan McCarthy and academy acting caretaker Bill Pearce.

Matt, 27, lured Emma to the academy on the pretence of picking their friend and French teacher Conor Riley up before heading on to Ilkeston Fair – the scene of their first date.

When they arrived, Mrs McCarthy offered to take them to Conor and showed them into their old classroom which was decorated with candles and lanterns.

Matt got down on one knee and popped the question to a shocked Emma, who said yes, and the childhood sweethearts, of Smalley, are now discussing wedding plans.

Matt, who works in IT in Nottingham, said he was relieved that everything went to plan and thanked the academy for helping to make it all happen.

He said: “I knew for the past couple of years that I wanted to propose but our 10th anniversary passed and I didn’t want to do it on our 11th so thought I would go for our 12th.

“I just thought it would be great to propose in our old classroom, where I asked her to be my girlfriend 12 years ago to the day, but I did wonder what the chances were of actually making it happen.

“I emailed Mrs McCarthy and she was really helpful and very keen. I wanted Emma’s school friends to be there, Laura Webster, Emma Chambers and Carlene Horridge, who helped tremendously in secretly organising Emma without her realising.

“They were hiding in a cupboard and came out once I’d actually proposed so that was a great surprise for Emma. We have talked about getting married but she didn’t have any idea it was going to happen.

“We’ve been busy as we’ve just moved house so I think this was completely out of the blue.”

Emma, a dental hygienist, said she had no idea what Matt had been planning.

She said: “I was so shocked as I’d almost given up hope of it actually happening. I didn’t have any idea what he was doing, I thought it was a bit strange when the head teacher was in school late in the evening and when I saw the room I just wondered what was going on. I wondered why Conor wasn’t there and why there were lots of candles. Then Matt asked me to sit down in my old chair and proposed. It was surreal as it was the first time I’d been back to school since leaving. I was very impressed though. It couldn’t have been more perfect.”

Mrs McCarthy said she was delighted to help Matt carry out his plan.

She said: “We were delighted to be part of such a memorable experience for two of our ex-students. Saint John Houghton obviously holds happy memories for them both and we were thrilled to be involved.

“It was a bit nerve-wracking waiting for them to arrive and taking them to the classroom but it all went to plan. Matt and Emma are a lovely couple and we wish them all the best for the future.”

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