A KEIGHLEY teaching assistant has struck gold.

Esta Bernardini, who works at Carlton Keighley, has won a prestigious Gold Award.

She took the Teaching Assistant of the Year accolade in the Pearson National Teaching Awards.

The honour is in recognition of Esta's work to help visually impaired students access mainstream education and be an integral part of the school community.

To help provide the support, Esta learned braille from scratch and had to master the whole curriculum so that she could translate high-level academic resources into accessible documents for use by blind pupils.

Students she worked with included Ahmed Hassan, who ­– after five years of support – achieved six Grade 9s and three Grade 8s at GCSE. And visually impaired pupils have continued to achieve high rates of exam success.

Esta says: "I have had the honour of working with incredible students over the years and it is such a privilege to see all their hard work come to fruition and be a part of their journey.

"Being nominated in the Pearson National Teaching Awards was a huge, unexpected shock – but such a lovely surprise!"

The nomination was made by Carlton Keighley's head of school, Mark Turvey.

He said: "Esta is an exceptional colleague who thoroughly deserves this acknowledgement at a national level.

"We are incredibly proud of the way that Esta has transformed inclusion in school, making all pupils realise there are no barriers to success and that with high ambitions, hard work and resilience – and the support of excellent teachers – you can achieve anything. She truly embodies our school mission of ‘excellence for all’."

Jon Skurr, executive head of the Carlton Academy Trust, said: "This is a truly exceptional achievement for Esta, and a reflection of the hard work and commitment she has shown to the young people in our community. It is also a reflection of the rapid and continued improvements at Carlton Keighley. The school has built a culture where high standards mean that all staff and pupils can achieve fantastic outcomes."

A special film made for the award announcement was shown on the BBC One Show programme.

Ahmed presented Esta with a braille message, revealing she had won, during an assembly.

Also, in recognition of Esta's enthusiasm for gardening, the school gardening club – with help from local gardeners Steve and Joe Thorpe – designed and planted a special sensory garden.