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Royal honour for Cath who's retired after 25 years service

Retiring child protection officer Cath Dixon

Cath Dixon smiles, then wipes away a tear, when she’s asked how she feels to be leaving her second home, Acklam Grange School, after 25 years.

It’s been an emotional end to the half term for Cath and her colleagues as she reflects on “an incredibly special” two and a half decades working at the school.

“It’s never been anything but a privilege to work with our young people. Their resilience never ceases to amaze me,” said Cath.

“I feel very lucky and blessed to have been here and overwhelmed at everyone’s kindness.”

A guard of honour celebrated her career as the child protection officer left work for the last time, after she’d enjoyed an afternoon tea with colleagues.

And there was a big surprise for the 66-year-old on her final day – the school has nominated her for a Royal Honour for her exemplary work.

“I’ve been on a real emotional rollercoaster,” said Cath.

“Working in a school is always emotional, but it’s been especially so in the past couple of weeks as it’s got closer to the date of leaving and I’ve reflected on some very happy times.”

Joining Acklam Grange in 1997 as a teaching assistant, Cath worked with children with special educational needs before moving into a safeguarding role.

She’s also co-ordinated the Cause Christmas Hamper campaign for the school, part of a town-wide initiative which sees presents, food and festive cheer spread across Middlesbrough.

“Parts of Middlesbrough are some of the most deprived areas in the country, and that brings its own issues,” said Cath.

“I’ve seen a lot of changes over my time here, but the main positive is that safeguarding is the first concern for every member of staff now.

“Our job is to make sure our children have everything they need to succeed in their education.”

Cath is now looking forward to being a “good granny” to grandson Noah, who’s 18 months old, and seeing more of her son, who lives locally, and her daughter in Australia.

“I think everyone’s life has been on hold over the past few years, during lockdown, we’ve all missed out,” she continued.

“While I’m still relatively healthy and able, I want to make sure I go and spend some time with my family and see some more of the world.”

She’s worked with hundreds – probably thousands – of young people over the years, each with their own place in Cath’s heart.

“I love it when I see a former student after they’ve left school and learn about their life.

“It’s amazing even to simply hear about someone’s success.”

Acklam Grange’s ethos is that the entire school is a family – it’s adorned on posters and pictures all over the building.

“It’s what the head teacher always says,” continues Cath. “You will always be part of the Acklam Grange family no matter where you go in life. Hopefully I will stay in touch.”

Deputy headteacher Lucy Gowland, sitting next to Cath, chimes in.

“You won’t have a choice!” Lucy laughs.

“Cath has been so emotional but everyone in the school feels exactly the same.

“She’s right that we’re a family. We’re excited for her to move on to her next chapter, because she’s going to do such good things.

“Lots of people describe Cath as their mentor.

“She is going to be a huge, huge loss to our team. We’ve relied on her professionally, and personally. She’s the person who people go and see when they need someone.”

Middlesbrough Council's Virtual School Head, Victoria Banks said: “I have had the good fortune to work in collaboration with Cath for many years now.

“Cath has always overwhelmed me with her enthusiasm and her genuine desire to meet every child’s unique needs.

“I wish her all the best for the future and thank her wholeheartedly for the great good she has done for the children of Middlesbrough”.