Published: 00:01, 28 June 2014
When Pam Jones stepped through the entrance of a special needs school she knew she had a big task in front of her.
“The buildings were in a sorry state,” the head of Ifield School, recalls 10 years later.
However, Mrs Jones proved up to the task and has turned the place around, leading the expansion of pupils and overseeing a major rebuilding exercise.
All of which was recognised when she was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honour.
For someone who has taken on such a mammoth challenge, it is surprising to find her still “shocked and overwhelmed” at her impending visit to Buckingham Palace for services to education.
But she accepts that since taking the helm of the special education needs school a decade ago she has made a difference.
Mrs Jones has overseen a complete rebuild and expansion and introduced a nursery at the school in Cedar Avenue. There is also now a sixth form run in conjunction with North West Kent College.
The number of pupils aged between four to 19 has increased from 138 to 211 and she has 150 staff.
The dynamic head is not, however, resting on her laurels and has ambitious plans for the future.
Mrs Jones said: “When I got here the buildings were in a sorry state and I managed to get a KCC review to get funding.
We have come a long way but I still have plans for the future.”
The school is launching a post 19 pilot project in September helping former students integrate into the community and find work and they have just received outline planning permission to build a sports, art and culture block.
Originally from Wales, Mrs Jones is a fervent believer that SEN children should have the same opportunities as anyone else.
She said: “Probably one of my proudest achievements is to get two outstanding Ofsteds, including one this year.
“For any pupil to leave here with skills from an outstanding school and stay at home with no prospects of work is completely unforgiveable.”
The scheme introduced under the government’s Children and Families Act aims to support people with special needs until the age of 25.
Job coaches will be employed to offer help and advice on employment opportunities.
The sports and arts centre plan has been named I sparc, standing for Ifield sport, art and culture.
Mrs Jones, a mother-of three, said:”We need millions, but it will be a wonderful way to celebrate the pupils’ work.”
Mrs Jones who is married to Terry, a retired lecturer, and lives near Wrotham, said: “I think it is marvellous that teachers are rewarded on the Queen’s list.
“Teachers are such an important part of our future and I know that they did the best for me when I was at school.
“I work with a fabulous team and wonderful pupils and have had support from colleagues all over the county.
“I feel deeply honoured. I am an ordinary person who has received an extraordinary honour.”
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