LONG-serving Palmerston Primary kitchen assistant Shirley Curnick has scooped a local authority catering association shining star award after dishing up school dinners for more than 40 years.

She began work at Palmerston, in Barry, in 1979 before moving to a number of schools in the Vale and old South Glamorgan county boundary

The veteran cook returned to Palmerston from Ysgol Maes Dyfan school five years ago where she had risen to the position of cook-in charge.

She said: “I was chuffed to win to be honest.

"I found out I’d been nominated and then shortlisted and we went to the Vale for the awards night.

"I was just enjoyed the evening, but it was great to win.

“I love every minute of my time in school – I can’t wait to come to work.

“It’s important to build up a rapport with the children.

"I like to get to know them, then they come in and speak to you, tell you about their day and what they’d like to have for lunch.

“I’m 71 now and I’ve no plans to retire.

"I’ll keep working for as long as I can because I enjoy it so much.”

In more than four decades of employment, she has taken just one day’s leave to attend her granddaughter’s graduation and missed only five days through sickness.

It was that incredible longevity, commitment and care for the pupils she looks after that saw her claim the LACA Wales region shining star at the Vale Hotel ceremony.

She prides herself on knowing all pupils by name, their likes and dislikes, dietary needs and regularly takes part in other school activities, including a trip to watch the Lion King in London

Vale council cabinet member for education and regeneration, Cllr Lis Burnett said: “Shirley’s dedication to her pupils is obvious as is the fact her influence spreads way beyond the kitchen.

“I would like to congratulate Shirley on her richly deserved award and her fantastic achievement of 40 years’ service to children in the Vale.”

The Vale council also celebrated two other awards at the LACA awards event as catering manager Carole Tyley received a rising star award for catering in Welsh Education.

And the authority’s local produce initiative, which has seen more local suppliers and produce included on school menus, was hailed as forward-thinking and innovative.