RACHEL Thornton, described as ‘the beating heart’ of Westlands First School, in Droitwich, was a runner-up in this year’s Support Staff of the Year category.

Mrs Thornton, 49, has been at Westlands for 14 years and is described as the “the friendly face that greets every child and visitor.”

She said: “I was absolutely speechless when I found out I had been nominated and it was an even greater shock when I found out I was a finalist.

“It is an honour to represent the school in such a positive way and to be able to support the parents, pupils and staff as I do is hugely rewarding.”

Mrs Thornton’s job includes everything from finance to helping parents with queries and has been known to grit the school driveway when required.

She added: “It is not just me, it really is everyone at the school and it is a real team effort to make the school successful.

“When you see the smile on a child’s face, that really makes it all worthwhile.”