THE FORMER headteacher of a Rowley Regis special school has been awarded an OBE for her dedication in helping youngsters with special educational needs and disabilities.

Christine Hill spent 20 years at Westminster School on the Rowley Learning Campus, rising to headteacher.

She said it was "a bit of a shock" to receive the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the New Year's Honours.

During her time at the Hawes Lane school it received an Outstanding Ofsted, moved to a new site and expanded to take more youngsters, helping many of them into employment, with pupils taking up roles with employers including Russells Hall Hospital and Interserve grounds maintenance.

The 67-year-old mum-of-three and grandmother-of-two, who lives in Baylie Street, Stourbridge, retired last April.

She said: "Being a headteacher is the best job in the world - you can influence in the right way so many things to help pupils be successful.

"I had the most amazing staff who work tirelessly for the children.

"In a way the OBE wasn't for me - it was for all of us - the pupils, staff, parents. It was a lovely community and I miss that.

"It has been such a big part of my life for a long time."

The school, which takes children with moderate learning difficulties and above, accepts youngsters with conditions including Autism, Down's syndrome and ADHD.

Christine's first job at Westminster was as inclusion manager, after she moved from a school in Worcester.

Christine said: "I only intended to stay a few years, but we moved from West Bromwich to the new build in Rowley Regis learning campus.

"The school became very popular and in 2017 we had an Outstanding Ofsted and when Whiteheath school moved out we took over their building to expand our post 16 provision to get pupils into employment."

Christine's husband Stephen Hill, retired from his job in IT on the same day that Christine retired and the couple were looking forward to a trip to base camp Everest, which has been rescheduled to next year due to coronavirus.

They have been walking 20 miles a day in preparation for the trip.

Christine said: "We have done a lot of walking, it's very relaxing and you can switch off."

She said the OBE news, which she had to keep secret for weeks, came as a nice boost in these troubling times.

She said: "It was amazing to get the OBE especially at a time when everything was bleak - to get something like that was momentous."

Westminster School headteacher Oliver Flowers, said “We are delighted that our previous headteacher Mrs Hill has been recognised in the New Year’s Honours List.

"This award is well deserved for her service and dedication to children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.”