DESCRIBED by colleagues as the Pied Piper of Hartlepool, teaching assistant Janice Hutchinson yesterday walked off with a top education award.

Ms Hutchinson was among a number of school staff from the region feted for their hard work at the North-East Teaching Awards 2005.

The 42-year-old was named Teaching Assistant of the Year after being nominated by other staff at Manor College of Technology, in Hartlepool.

Manor College deputy headteacher Martin Robson said Janice had such a good relationship with students that many of them "followed her around like the Pied Piper".

He said: "She's absolutely top. She has a genuine feeling for the kids, which goes way beyond the call of duty."

Other winners at the awards ceremony, held at Newcastle Racecourse, included Anne Hammett, Secondary School Teacher of the Year, and Lisa Holt, from Hill View Infant School, Sunderland, who won the award for outstanding new teacher.

Ken Robinson, headteacher at Billingham South Primary School, received a distinction in the headteacher category.

Mrs Hammett, a business studies teacher and pastoral head at Emmanuel College, Gateshead, is due to retire at the end of term.

She was nominated for the accolade by 17-year-old student Heather Allen, who put forward her name in appreciation of support she had received in overcoming personal problems.

Heather said: "I can't ever thank her enough for what she has done for me and I don't want her to leave. It's difficult to sum up how amazing she is."

Staff at Manor College of Technology said Ms Hutchinson was an invaluable worker.

They said strenuous efforts had been made to persuade the teaching assistant, who has worked in the school's learning resource centre for the past six years, to become a full-time teacher.

Ms Hutchinson, who beat about 5,000 other nominees to win, said: "This award is totally unexpected and I was really shocked when they said my name. I just love the kids, I really do. I don't think I'd become a teacher because the position I'm in, children can come to me more easily than if I was a teacher. I wouldn't want to lose that."

Yesterday's winners go forward to the national finals later this year.

Full list of award-winners

Award for Healthy Schools: Gill Hedworth, John Spence Community High School Sports College, North Shields. Distinction: Peggy Swinhoe, St Patrick's RC Primary School, Stockton. Commendation: Linda Russell-Bond, Thornaby Community School, Stockton.

The BT Award for Teacher of the Year in a Primary School: Sandra Ford, Abbeyfields First School, Morpeth. Commendation: Janis Davidson, Highfield Middle School, Prudhoe. Liz Gill, Wearhead Primary School, Bishop Auckland.

The Guardian Award for Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School: Ann Hammett, Emmanuel College, Gateshead. Commendation: Rachael Speers, St Bernards Catholic High School, Barrow-in-Furness.

The Teacher Training Agency Award for Outstanding New Teacher: Lisa Holt, Hill View Infant School, Sunderland. Commendation: Mark Woodley, Sunderland Junior and High School.

The Award for Special Needs Teacher of the Year: Ann Oliver, Sunningdale Special School, Sunderland. Distinction: Margaret Pattinson, Glendene School, Peterlee. Commendation: Anne Hedley, Sunderland Pupil Referral Unit, Sunderland.

The Promethean Award for Headteacher of the Year in a Primary School: Angela Rawlinson, St James CE Junior School, Barrow-in-Furness. Distinction: Ken Robinson, Billingham South Primary School, Billingham.

The RAF Award for Headteacher of the Year in a Secondary School: Paul Rusby, Seaton Hirst Middle School, Ashington. Distinction: Philomena Marshall, Sandhill View School, Sunderland.

The DfES Innovation Unit Award for Lifetime Achievement: Dr Tony Broady, Walker Technology College, Newcastle. Distinction: Elisabeth Bainbridge, Longhorsley CE First School, Morpeth.

The Award for Teaching Assistant of the Year: Janice Hutchinson, Manor College of Technology, Hartlepool. Commendation: Nicola Sinden, Delves Lane Junior School, Consett.

The Award for Teaching Assistant of the Year: Pamela Bolton, Vickerstown Primary School, Barrow-in-Furness.

The DfES Innovation Unit Award for Lifetime Achievement: Christine Palmer, Inglewood Infant School, Carlisle.

The Award for Working with Business and the Community. Distinction: Ann Southren, Durham Trinity School, Durham. Commendation: Chris Horn, Broadway Junior School, Sunderland.