A highly respected SENCO and special needs advisor responsible for helping hundreds of students, families and colleagues during her long career has been honoured with a special award.

The Whitehaven Academy’s Jos Cole was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at The Golden Apples, which celebrate the very best of teaching and education in Cumbria.

Jos, who has been a part of the Whitehaven team since 2007 and has worked in education for 37 years, was presented with her accolade at a ceremony hosted by publishers Newsquest at Workington’s Energus Centre. Guests had watched a specially made video paying tribute to her years of dedication.

She began her work at Whitehaven as Curriculum Team Leader with experience as a SENCO, a background in working with young people in challenging situations and determination to help them thrive.

Jos is credited with a huge impact in her time as SENCO and member of the Senior Leadership Team at the academy. Colleagues describe her as ‘a fountain of knowledge on all things SEN’ who shares her experience and expertise widely.

Now, she is pivotal in her support of colleagues in their own development.

Headteacher Nigel Youngman said: “Jos works with staff as a mentor and guide, ensuring that we continue to provide our young people with the support they need.

“As a Headteacher, you learn quickly to appreciate the immense knowledge and understanding that a colleague brings whether it is about a community, systems, families, children, learning needs or logistics.

“Jos brings all those elements, and we are a richer school for that. The fact that she is now inspiring, guiding and mentoring new senior leaders gives us great pride.

“Having devoted her career to the development of young people she is empowering colleagues to continue that work.”

Jos said: “I’ve just tried to do the job I love the best I can do, I don’t think I’ve done anything special.

“I’ve wanted to give students opportunities. When I was at school there were a number of students who didn’t get the opportunities that students get today, I wanted to give back in the same way that teachers provided for me.

“I was shocked to be nominated, and then flattered that people could think so positively about me.

“I feel really lucky that I’ve been able to do the job I’ve always wanted to do. I could never have done anything else and just feel really grateful that maybe I have made a little bit of a difference along the way.”

Colleagues at Whitehaven were quick to sing Jos’ praise and thank her for her continued support.

Andrea Bateson, Senior Assistant Headteacher

“As a SENCO, Jos led by example and was an excellent role model for students, teachers and support staff, modelling professionalism, leadership and a passion for the role that was truly inspirational. Her workload was mammoth, yet nothing she was asked to do was ever too much trouble and she always made herself available for a chat. And she understands the pressures faced by new leaders.

“She is respected and highly valued by parents and adored by students. New colleagues are naturally drawn to her guidance. She is humble, and approachable, but most of all she encourages students to value their differences and achieve their full potential.”

Marie McMurdo, Assistant Headteacher and new SENCO

“Jos is an extremely well-respected member of the team and the years of knowledge that she has accumulated with regard to all things SEN is second to none.

“Her continued support and professional guidance to all colleagues is admired and appreciated by all. The care and attention she has when focusing on the needs of our young people is an inspiration to all and I know that hundreds of children and families have benefited from her involvement over the years.

“She is a true inspiration and driving force for developing SEN provision in school and I have learned so much from working with her.”

Gary Trewhitt, Assistant Headteacher and Designated Safeguarding Lead

“Jos’ knowledge and understanding across a range of areas is incredible and her professionalism and support for colleagues at all levels is second to none. Jos is somebody you can go to with a problem and she will very quickly find multiple solutions.”

Jos follows in the footsteps of academy colleague Beth Rothery who was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at last year’s ceremony.