Denbigh High School headteacher is ‘overwhelmed’ after receiving MBE in Queen's Birthday Honours

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A Luton headteacher awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, says she has been “overwhelmed” by the news.

Donna Neely-Hayes, Headteacher at Denbigh High School, received the honour in recognition of her service to education as well as her drive to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds in support of her son, Finnley, who was diagnosed with a form of cancer at a young age.

The award was included in the annual list of birthday honours to mark The Queen’s Birthday, in this her Platinum Jubilee Year.

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Donna has been an influential headteacher at Denbigh High School – part of the Chiltern Learning Trust - since 2019, having started at the school as an NQT PE teacher in 2007.

Donna Neely-Hayes with Denbigh studentsDonna Neely-Hayes with Denbigh students
Donna Neely-Hayes with Denbigh students

She said: “I am truly overwhelmed and humbled to have been made a Member of the British Empire for services to education. The news came as a complete surprise to me when I learned of it.

“I love my role as a Headteacher at Denbigh High School having worked here for all my teaching career. While I am accepting this award as an individual, my work would not be possible without the support of my family, the school and the Chiltern Learning Trust who have all played such an integral role in my life and career and deserve to be recognised for their contributions."

“I would also like to extend my gratitude to Ian Douglas, Headteacher at Chiltern Academy, Dame Yasmin Bevan, former headteacher at Denbigh High School, and Adrian Rogers, Chiltern Learning Trust CEO, who have all been such influential figures throughout my career and time at the school.”

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Donna and her partner’s son Finnley was diagnosed with Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma, a form of cancer in 2017 when he was just 16 months old. The family had a very anxious wait as he was treated at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridgeshire for a number of months. Finnley is now in remission, and he is fit and well and enjoying life with his parents and two-year-old sister, Rosie.

Adrian Rogers, Chief Executive Officer at Chiltern Learning Trust, said: “We are blessed to have a number of outstanding leaders across our trust but Donna’s commitment to education, her family and fundraising is truly remarkable.

“Donna absolutely deserves this MBE as the work she has done to balance personal commitments to charity whilst ensuring Denbigh High School remains an outstanding school for our young people is utterly outstanding. She is an inspiration to us all.”

Other roles Donna has held at Denbigh High School prior to becoming Headteacher included Head of Department for PE & Sport; Assistant Headteacher (Inclusion, SENCO & DSP); Deputy Headteacher (Aspiration and Ambition) and Acting Headteacher.

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Also receiving MBE’s were a teacher at a Luton based South Asian Dance and Music company and a social worker for Central Bedfordshire Council.

Sanjeevini Dutta is the director of Kadam Dance, a nationally renowned dance and summer school and received the award for services to dance.

Emma Cox, aged 41, has been awarded an MBE for services to child and family social work and voluntary work overseas.

She is a Senior Practitioner at the Council and has over seven years’ experience in social work.

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