Judith Hines

9th December 2005 at 00:00
Six Year 11 students from the New School at West Heath, Sevenoaks, stood on the top of Snowdon this summer. They wouldn't have made it without Judith Hines, who stood with them, hands joined on the trig point at 3,560 feet.

"It was a brilliant moment," says David Perridge, head of the upper school, who was part of the expedition organised by Judith, a senior teaching assistant also responsible for running the Duke of Edinburgh's Award at this school for pupils with emotional and behaviour difficulties. Her outdoor education programme means that soon every year group will have the chance of an expedition.

"It wasn't easy, but at 400 feet below the summit we got together for the last push. The students said it was a different world and the best time they'd ever had."

The New School at West Heath opened seven years ago on the premises of the school once attended by Diana Spencer, later the Princess of Wales. The independent girls' boarding school had gone into receivership, coincidentally within hours of her death in 1997, and was subsequently bought by Mohamed Al Fayed. He agreed with local campaigner Val May, head of a pupil referral unit, that it should become a school for vulnerable children, and one year later the New School opened with Ms May as headteacher and a board of trustees led by the broadcaster Peter Sissons.

Today, Judith Hines is one of around 80 staff working with more than 100 children and teenagers aged 11-18 with a wide range of difficulties, including autism, ADHD, and school phobia. All are statemented, one third are boarders, some are academically gifted. The building is a Georgian mansion set in grounds which are still visited by the old girls of West Heath. "We are very lucky," says Mr Perridge, who nominated Judith for our flowers, champagne and chocolates. "You can't do this work without good relationships. Judith is totally supportive of the students, but she's clear about having high expectations and the importance of learning. She tells it how it is and will stop at nothing to ensure students get the challenge they deserve."

Heroes are out there, but we need you to reveal them in all their glory.

Think of the person in your school - teacher, classroom assistant, governor, cook - who always goes the extra mile. Then tell us about them in a letter or email to Sarah Bayliss at the address on the left. Go on, they deserve recognition. (Flowers kindly supplied by Marks Spencer)

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