SHE has dedicated 18 years to helping schoolchildren – and now a North Waltham grandmother has been officially recognised for her efforts by The Queen.

Maud Hobbs, also known as Eleanor, was nominated for a British Empire Medal by her granddaughter, Harriet Hobbs – and she was shocked when she received a letter through the post informing her that she would receive the honour.

Mrs Hobbs’ family, from Devon, had kept the nomination a secret from the retired mother-of-three.

Harriet and her 53-year-old father Ian put together a portfolio explaining why she should receive the medal, which included letters from North Waltham Parish Council, Councillor Roy Perry, leader of Hampshire County Council, and North Waltham Primary School.

But there was an 18-month wait before the family discovered their application was a success and Mrs Hobbs would be awarded a BEM.

Mrs Hobbs began volunteering at North Waltham Primary School, in Steventon Road, following the sudden death of her husband Michael, on January 1, 1993.

The couple had run a newsagents shop together in Cheshire, and Mrs Hobbs suddenly found a void in her life that needed filling.

She moved to North Waltham to be closer to her sister, and offered her help at the school, where she has volunteered for two days a week ever since.

She said: “I love being able to give something back to the community. I really enjoy being with the children and teachers. The school is a great school and it’s full of respect. I can’t imagine not doing it.”

The grandmother-of-six, who received a letter informing her of the BEM on November 19, said: “I opened it and read it, and had to read it three times. I was dumbfounded.”

Harriet, 21, a newly-qualified social worker, said she was delighted her grandmother’s efforts have been recognised.

She added: “After all these years, it’s a selfless thing to do. She puts so much in and never expects anything back. It’s people like my nan who do deserve things like this.”

She will join her grandmother at a garden party at Buckingham Palace, organised for those recognised in the New Year’s Honours list.

Cllr Perry said: “People like Maud wholly deserve to be recognised and to receive an honour such as this. They give their time selflessly with no expectation of reward, and are a hugely valuable asset in their community.”

Jeff Maidment, headteacher at North Waltham Primary School, added: “All schools should have a ‘Mrs Hobbs’. She undertakes a variety of tasks including supporting those children who are sometimes less engaged in their learning than their peers.

“According to my calculations, since she first began volunteering here, she must have heard children reading around 33,000 times.

“Mrs Hobbs is an absolute gem and when she gives her first-hand accounts of what life was like during the war, the children are totally captivated. Quite rightly, she is held in extremely high regard by all – pupils, parents, staff and governors.”