The 'exceptional' Stoke-on-Trent teacher who's dedicated her life to children

A principal at a Stoke-on-Trent school has won a prestigious national award. Tracy Whitehurst, 55, from Aurora Hanley School in Bucknall, has been recognised with a Silver Award in the Pearson National Teaching Awards.

She was selected from thousands of nominees and the win highlights the remarkable impact she has had on shaping the lives of the young people in her care. Tracy has been responsible for setting up, opening and leading Aurora Hanley School and Aurora Summerfields School and has achieved two outstanding Ofsted reports. She has established the schools firmly as a front runner of outstanding practice nationally.

Julie Martin, Head of School at Aurora Hanley, said: "She's installed a culture of high aspirations and expectations, care and compassion for all staff, students and families in her reach. As an exceptional practitioner she has dedicated her life to working in the special needs arena and brought this experience to life in her schools-relishing the opportunity to build them from scratch and applying all her learning to make it the most fabulous provision imaginable."

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Tracy is now in the running for the coveted Gold Award, which will be announced at a prestigious awards ceremony later in the year. She told StokeonTrentLive she was unaware her colleagues had put her forward for the award.

Tracy, of Congleton, said: "They managed to do a great job hiding it from me. I have been here since 2017. I set it all up. I have grown it from an empty building.

"We are registered for up to 90 young people aged six to 19. At the moment we have 86 students, boys and girls, with special educational needs.

"I was not aware of it. They very craftily behind my back put in the nomination from everybody in the community, parents, staff and students, which is absolutely amazing.

"I was not aware I had won until today. It means a lot. I looked at the application. They were so kind, the staff, the parents and the students. They have all contributed to the application.

"You do not work in special needs education for accolades. It is a real passion, a very hands-on and heart-led profession."

The announcement comes as students and schools across the UK today paid tribute to all those who work in education to mark National Thank a Teacher Day.

National Thank a Teacher Day and the Pearson National Teaching Awards are run by the Teaching Awards Trust, an independent charity established more than 25 years ago to celebrate the transformative impact of education, shining a spotlight on the pivotal roles teachers, support staff, colleges, schools and early years educators play in inspiring young people, every single day.

Michael Morpurgo, author, former Children’s Laureate, and president of the Teaching Awards Trust, said: "The work and devotion of all of those who play a role in educating young people is phenomenal. Not only do they play a vital role in shaping minds inside the classroom, often they continue to encourage, support, motivate and inspire beyond. That's why it is important for us to take a moment on this National Thank a Teacher Day to recognise their efforts.

"I am also thrilled to be able to congratulate this year's Silver Award winners and recognise the amazing contributions and commitment they have shown is shaping the lives of the next generation."

Sharon Hague, managing director of school assessment and qualifications at Pearson UK, said: "We're delighted to recognise this year's Silver Award winners on their outstanding achievements. The contributions they make and the impact they have on young people's lives every day is truly exceptional. We're extremely proud to support the National Teaching Awards and mark the achievements of all of our very worthy winners. Thank you for your continued work and congratulations."

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