NEVER has there been greater reason to celebrate those in the academic sector.

After teaching methods were revised with urgency as the Covid pandemic struck, our education establishments ensured students did not miss out on vital lessons.

That’s why our Education Hero of the Year is a hotly-contested category.

The nominations for Education Hero of the Year perfectly highlight the dedication and pride shown by those in the profession.

News and Star: NOMINEE: Ann-Marie Handford is excited for the eventNOMINEE: Ann-Marie Handford is excited for the event

One of our three shortlisted, Anne Marie Handforth, headteacher at St Cuthbert’s Catholic Primary School in Wigton, has been praised for turning the school around during a very difficult two years - with Ofsted visits resulting in a change from ‘requires improvement’ to ‘good’.

Mrs Handforth is not only celebrated for her school’s success but also, as the nomination states, because of her “passion and dedication to the children”.

When told of being shortlisted, she said: “I am really surprised, humbled and honoured. It’s great to be acknowledged.

“It’s a team effort - staff, governors, parents, wider community and of course the children. This is recognition for the whole school”

News and Star: NOMINEE: Margaret Bravo dedicates the nomination to her late husbandNOMINEE: Margaret Bravo dedicates the nomination to her late husband

Also shortlisted is Margaret Bravo, MBE, who works at St Peter’s pre-school in Stanwix.

The nomination said Mrs Bravo is “a superb teacher and outstanding woman. Her teaching style is warm and memorable, and each child has come on leaps and bounds. She is caring towards children and parents and has a heart of gold.”

Mrs Bravo, who has received many other awards, said: “I am delighted but it’s for my school, my staff who have been so loyal. My late husband was also a huge support to the school.”

Mrs Bravo dedicates the nomination to her late husband, saying: “My husband did a lot for the school as well, I could not have done any of this without him.”

News and Star: NOMINEE: The whole of Blackford Primary School are nominatedNOMINEE: The whole of Blackford Primary School are nominated

Our third nomination is for a whole school - Blackford Primary School in Carlisle.

The school has been praised for being supportive not just throughout the pandemic, when home-learning and online classes were held, but before and continues to be so.

Headteacher, Mrs Linda W Smith said: “We were very surprised and really excited about being shortlisted. This is totally out of the blue we weren’t expecting a nomination and we have never had anything like this before.

"We like that we have been nominated as a school. We are very family focused and it’s lovely to be recognised.”