Helen Shepherd
  • Award for Excellence in Special Needs Education
  • Royal School for the Deaf Derby
  • Derby, Derbyshire

Described by Government inspectors as ‘inspirational’ and ‘outstanding’ , Helen is retiring after 30 years at Derby’s historic school for deaf children. She has worked there since 1991, taking the helm in 2015 after the school was plunged into special measures.  She has worked tirelessly to turn the school around, with staff telling her that she may be able to hear, but she ‘has a deaf heart’ and that she is not leaving a sinking ship because ‘we’re a cruise liner now’.

Thanks to Helen’s hard work, school results have improved across the board, wellbeing and counselling services for pupils have been established, firm bridges between staff and the school community have been built and there have been changes in culture, ethos, happiness and safeguarding. Now, Government inspectors have judged the school ‘Good’ in every single category, while the residential unit – and Helen herself – have been described as “outstanding”.