A former Paralympian from Hornchurch has won an MBE for services to education and apprenticeships and said she was in disbelief at receiving the award.

Amy Marren, 25, was recognised in the King's Birthday Honours 2024, announced on Friday night (June 14).

Amy is a solicitors apprentice at BPP Holdings Limited and she swam for Great Britain at two Paralympics, winning a bronze medal in 2016.

The 25-year-old said she was "knocked for six" at hearing the news around a month ago, which also came as a surprise to her mother who thought she had been nominated for jury service.

Amy, who has lived in Hornchurch for most of her life, has been credited for sharing open and honest accounts of her apprenticeship experiences.

"I'm not often speechless but I wasn't sure what to do with myself for a while afterwards," Amy said.

"Just complete disbelief really, and really quite proud that I'm able to be recognised in this way."

RELATED NEWS: Another award for Amy

Amy (left) said apprenticeships offered a good alternative to university educationAmy (left) said apprenticeships offered a good alternative to university education (Image: Marren family)

Amy, whose family moved from East Ham to Hornchurch just before she turned three, said she appreciated the MBE, and hoped it would raise the profile of apprenticeships.

Her citation called her "a tireless promoter of the opportunities apprenticeships offer".

She has been a member of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education’s apprentice panel since 2021.

Amy completed the Level 4 paralegal apprenticeship in June 2019 before progressing on to the solicitor apprenticeship in September the same year with BPP Holdings.

She founded the BPP Legal Apprentices Society, which she set up in 2021 to connect the firm's legal apprentices and help them enhance their apprenticeship experience.

Amy said: "In the past few years the stigma [around apprenticeships] has started to come away but I'm so proud to be an apprentice and think they offer a great way into a career.

"Apprenticeships offer a great option and a way into the workforce that disabled people haven't necessarily had yet," she added.

After receiving the letter in May, Amy said it had been difficult not being able to tell people, even more so convincing her mother not to reveal the news.

"I've had to keep it a secret for about a month now," she said. "It's been so hard not being able to tell people.

"My mum loves talking to everyone in Sainsbury's, [but] I've been telling her to please not say it."

The award ranks within her top three life achievements, Amy said, who added that she hopes to do more to educate people on apprenticeships and their value.

Her citation described her as "committed to changing outdated perceptions of apprenticeships".

"Both through her membership of the apprentice panel and through generously sharing her story with others via media channels, she is determined to challenge stereotypes and break down barriers."

Despite her honour, Amy feels she has more to achieve.

"It all felt very unbelievable that I could've reached something when I'm not at the pinnacle of where I'd like to be.

"That doesn't take away from the fact I appreciate it a lot and it's massively recognised - I'm excited to see what it does for apprentices in future," Amy added.

Another MBE winner was Tariq Mahmood, vice chair of Havering Inter Faith Forum.

Tariq Mahmood pictured in 2021 with his Mayor of Havering Civic AwardTariq Mahmood pictured in 2021 with his Mayor of Havering Civic Award (Image: Havering Council)

Tariq, who won a Mayor of Havering's Civic Award in 2021, received his honour for services to charity and interfaith relations.

He is also the founder of Feed the Needy.

A council press release announcing his civic award said he has been part of the forum for at least 20 years and has also worked at a pharmacy for 35 years.

His role with the forum sees him facilitate discussions between different religious groups.

“No question is out of bounds and every question is taken seriously,” Tariq told the council.