A NORTH Waltham grandmother, who has dedicated years to helping schoolchildren, was the guest of honour at a very special surprise party.

Maud Hobbs turned up as normal to North Waltham Primary School, in Steventon Road, where she has volunteered two days a week for the past 19 years.

But as she helped to hand out end-of-term prizes, the grandmother-of-seven noticed members of her family, from Devon, were in the back of the hall.

Later, she sat on a throne while schoolchildren bowed and curtseyed in front of her before singing to her. She also received a large blue pot of begonias as a present.

As reported in The Gazette, Mrs Hobbs was awarded a British Empire Medal in the New Year’s Honours List in January.

She said: “I went to the garden party at Buckingham Palace, but the event at the school was something else. It blew me away and I could not take it all in.

“It was such a wonderful day. I do not know how the children kept it all a secret because the little ones had made all of these hats and I had not seen a thing.”

The surprise party was organised by staff, including headteacher Jeff Maidment. He has previously told The Gazette: “All schools should have a ‘Mrs Hobbs’. She undertakes a variety of tasks including supporting children who are sometimes less engaged in their learning than their peers.

“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.”

Mrs Hobbs will return to the school next week for the beginning of the new academic year.