They are the children's choice

4th April 2008 at 01:00
Two adults who inspire and selflessly support young people were rewarded for their efforts this week. Emma Seith reports

Special educational needs auxiliary Jacqueline Gordon is this year's children's choice as the adult they want to reward for her support and help to other children.

Nominated by her niece, Amy Hughes, 10, who was inspired by the way her aunt talked about "her children in school", Ms Gordon has won the under-12s category of the awards, run by the Office of the Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People.

"Some of the pupils have learning difficulties, and some have challenging behaviour," explained Amy. "But even though she can have some challenging days, she loves the children very much and finds her job rewarding."

In order to make the nomination, Amy grilled her aunt about her work at Lilybank School in Port Glasgow. Ms Gordon only realised this was more than a run-of-the-mill school project when the awards were reaching their final stages.

"It was only when my niece phoned and told me that we were down to the last six out of 250 that I thought: 'Uh oh, this is not what I thought it was.' When we went for the awards I never thought we would win anything. I was so shocked I couldn't move. I just looked at Amy and cried."

The Children's Choice Awards celebrate the role adults play in helping and supporting children and young people in Scotland. The nominations and final selection of the shortlist and winners are made by children and young people.

Lilybank caters for youngsters aged five to 18. All the 47 pupils have additional support needs arising from complex learning difficulties, including autistic spectrum disorders. Ms Gordon has been at the school for 17 years, working with a wide range of ages and abilities. Currently she is working with class 7 - five boys aged 15 and 16. She picks them up in the morning in one of the school's six buses, works with them during the day, and takes them home at 3.30pm.

She supports teachers with lessons in language, maths, home economics, and music, and is involved in the teaching of practical skills such as shopping. The class also goes to cafes to learn about waiting their turn and handling cash.

Winning the award was not just a coup for Ms Gordon, but for the whole school, said Eileen Stewart, headteacher. "It is not easy for the children and young people we work with to nominate staff for whom they have a fondness or respect. That Jacqueline's niece nominated her was wonderful, not just for Jacqueline, but for all the people in the school who do a similar job."

The winner of the Children's Choice Award for the over-12 category was Sian Anderson, a youth worker at the Escape Youth Cafe in Hawick. She was nominated by 15-year-old brothers David and Andrew Sheilds. "She has made a difference to the Hawick environment by trying to keep children out of trouble. Hawick hasn't got a lot of facilities that young people can use, but by opening the cafe for us, Sian has given us lots," said David.

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