Cramlington and Blyth residents among those around the UK included in Queen's Birthday Honours

Two people who have helped shape the lives of hundreds of children have spoken of their surprise after being recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

By David Sedgwick
Wednesday, 1st June 2022, 10:30 pm
Margaret Mitford (left) and Paul Cook have been recognised for their work in education in the Queen's Birthday Honours.
Margaret Mitford (left) and Paul Cook have been recognised for their work in education in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

Margaret Mitford, from Cramlington, has been awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to education while Paul Cook, from Blyth, received an MBE, for services to young people with special educational needs and disabilities.

Margaret was a headteacher at Brandling Primary School, in a highly deprived area of Gateshead which was described as a ‘very effective school’ by Ofsted and won the Government’s Investors in People and Basic Skills awards.

Since retiring, she has become heavily involved in the University for the Third Age, helping set up a branch in Cramlington.

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A poem written by Margaret Mitford thanking the Queen for her honour.

Margaret, 72, said: “I don’t know who put me up for this recognition. When I found out about it I was quite shocked. The only person I’ve told is my daughter.

"I think it’s because I’ve been involved in education for such a long time, and delighted that it’s been acknowledged.

"There are hundreds of people like me and I’m very honoured to be given this award but I wouldn’t have got it without the children, their parents and colleagues that I’ve worked with over the years who have given me the passion for education.”

As a headteacher she was renowned for her dedicated approach to meeting vulnerable, disadvantaged children's needs and working tirelessly with government ministers and other colleagues to showcase and improve education standards.

A poem written by Margaret Mitford thanking the Queen for her honour.

Both throughout her career and post-retirement, she expanded on her leadership and teaching success by volunteering as a board member and a governor across three trusts.

Since retiring Margaret has held a voluntary positions to support education services such as teaching English to refugees.

She said: “I can’t say no to things. I can’t take a step back.”

Paul, 50, has been principal and CEO of Hereward College in Coventry since 2017, playing a leading role in the special educational needs and disability (SEND) sector for the past decade.

He started his full-time FE career at Bridgwater College in Somerset in 2000, before taking on a quality management role at South Cheshire College.

Paul relocated to Blyth in 2007, when he became an assistant principal at Northumberland College in Ashington, helping lead the project to bring the 27m high wind turbine training tower to the National Renewable Energy Centre in Blyth.

Since becoming Principal at Hereward College, Paul has overseen a significant turnaround, with a then inadequate rated college earmarked for merger now graded ‘outstanding’ for finance and ‘good’ in every other category by Ofsted.

Paul said: “It is a huge source of pride that the number of Hereward graduates gaining paid work outcomes is at 19%, more than three times the national average.

“We impact more profoundly the life chances of young people with SEND as we don’t just give them the academic qualifications; we give them the skills needed for all facets of their adult life. It’s hugely rewarding work.”

Speaking of his “incredible surprise” when receiving notification of his MBE, Paul added: “I want to dedicate the award to my wife Dawn and children, who have supported me as I have worked in colleges around the country, and use it to further raise the profile of the needs of learners with SEND.”