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Liz Quinn

The 52-year-old head of Stourport High School and Sixth Form Centre in Worcestershire was named UK headteacher of the year in a secondary school at the 2009 Teaching Awards. The RAF, which sponsored the award, has just hosted a day out for Mrs Quinn and her husband at its base in Lincolnshire.

A high-flyer all round then?

"I'm hugely privileged to have received the award," says Mrs Quinn. "It's for the school and the team and the progress we have made ... I'm humbled because I know so many good heads. It's not as if I get to wear a sash and a tiara; it's a symbolic thing. It's about the job and its brilliance - it's not about you."

Any hints you were the top dog?

"None. I thought I'd get the hint with camera crews all over the school, but there weren't any. I wasn't expecting it, absolutely not."

Why the teaching Oscar?

"I've been at the school for ten years. When I joined, it was before the Ofsted grading days but the school had an E*. An E was the lowest grade you could get at that time. Then Ofsted's grades came in and said the school was going into special measures. That started the huge journey that led us here today. We are now an 'outstanding' school with three specialisms."

The team talk?

"My colleagues say I am an iron fist in a velvet glove. We are a training school and we work to get the best out of everybody. Complacency is not in my vocabulary. I believe I have a great team, the best teaching and support staff in the country. I try hard to keep people motivated through the dark days when there's no money and things are tough."

Any lazy eights with the RAF?

"It was absolutely stunning to fly the planes. I got some cracking pictures. The best bit was when I got to fly a 1940s Chipmunk that was in the Battle of Britain. I was in a seat behind the pilot and he asked if I wanted to take the controls. I didn't think he'd really let me, until he waved both of his hands in the air and I realised we were upside down hanging in a plane and I was completely in control of it. It was an exhilarating feeling of fear and excitement."

What else excites you?

"My husband and I are huge West Bromwich Albion fans. We go along at weekends to scream and shout at the team. It's the one time in the week that whatever happens on the pitch, whatever the result, it's not my fault. I love that."

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