A HEADTEACHER who has made a difference to the lives of countless young people with disabilities has been named in the Queen’s 90th birthday honours list

Jackie Smith, executive head teacher at Uplands School, has been awarded an MBE for her work with young people with special educational needs.

Her nomination read: “Her visionary and innovative leadership have made a huge impact on the lives of hundreds of families in Swindon and the surrounding area.”

Jackie said she was overwhelmed to receive a letter from the palace.

“I am delighted to be honoured for my service to education, I have worked my whole life with children with disabilities. It’s something that I always wanted to do.

“When I got the letter it was a Saturday morning, I opened it and I couldn’t quite believe it. I think I was in absolute shock. I wasn’t sure if I had to have an interview or if I really had it.

“The governors nominated me and it has made me so happy and touched that they did.”

Now Jackie is looking forward to meeting royalty.

“I think it will be either William or Charles so I’m very very excited. I also think there will be a party so I can’t wait,” she said.

Uplands School provides education for children with special needs aged between 11 and 19. All pupils have severe or profound and multiple learning difficulties, as well as additional needs including autism, visual or hearing impairments.

Since the 49-year-old joined the Tadpole Lane School in 2009, she has introduced the learning mentor programme which gives support to pupils by helping them meet their full potential with individual programmes

She created the Uplands Education Trust which meets the needs of learners aged 19 to 25 and provides invaluable work experience through three charity shops, a café and a learning centre.

She is responsible for the school more than doubling the number of pupils.

Last year Uplands was named best overall school at the ‘Oscars’ of the education world, the national TES education awards.

Jackie, originally from Brisbane, Australia, began her journey into education almost 20 years ago.

She said her daughter Hannah, a biochemist who is profoundly deaf, was an inspiration for her foray into special education needs teaching.

“My daughter Ella who is 11 is an inspiration in a different way because she understands the job and its demands,” said Jackie.

Jackie credits the young people and her staff team with Uplands’ continued success

“I have a fabulous team behind me, the staff are fantastic and we are a community here,” she said.

“The young people here are the reason why I love my job, although it has changed a lot over the years. We have a young man here who has recently got his first job at Go Outdoors which is such a huge achievement and what we are all about. That means the world to us.”