DIGNITARIES, students and staff packed into Champion's Church, Netherton for a Cradley Heath school's awards evening.

More than 200 students from Ormiston Forge Academy were recognised for outstanding achievements in academic and social aspects of school life.

As part of the school’s drive to improve literacy skills, especially reading, every prize winner received a national book token.

The theme of the evening was leadership and speakers took the opportunity to talk about personal experiences including volunteering and travel.

Army Major Naveed Muhammad gave a rousing speech and presented students with community awards.

Major Muhammad was awarded an MBE earlier this year for his “exemplary” service which saw him become a key role model for Muslims in and out of the Armed Forces.

The other awards were presented by the chair of governors at Forge Stephen Rayner, teacher Dawn Fellows, who also received the commitment award, and the principal Andrew Burns.

Major Muhammad said: “I'd like to thank Ormiston Forge Academy for inviting me along to this very special evening.

"To be able to share and be a part of it has been incredibly inspiring. It is our responsibility to equip young people and expose them to this rapidly changing world."

He added: "I hope that my experiences and background are able to form a part of the well-rounded education that these young people are already getting.

"I want to wish them all the very best for the future and I want them to work hard and make the most of their opportunities."

The 800 capacity Champions Church in Netherton was full and the audience was entertained by performing arts students who danced, sang, played a jazz solo on the clarinet and gave a poetry recital.

Academy principal Andrew Burns, who has been in charge for five years, was given a special award for his contribution to the school. Heproud history of the area, also symbolised in the academy logo.

Principal Andrew Burns said: “It was an incredible honour to be recognised in this way and I'm grateful to everyone who contributes, on a daily basis, to what we do.

"Our young people are what makes Forge tick, to see over 200 of them collect awards this evening is the most humbling and exhilarating feeling a school principal can have."