Croydon College has celebrated receiving a royal seal of approval in the form of a prestigious volunteering award.

The college this week landed the Queen's Award for Volunteering - equivalent to an MBE - for its services to the community.

It is the first foundation education college to receive the prize, which is given annually to recognise groups that improve the quality of life of local people.

Last year more than 1,500 Croydon College students gave 18,000 hours of their time to volunteering, including by lobbying, campaigning, fundraising, raising awareness of issues even representing youngsters before the United Nations.

The college's principal, Frances Wadsworth, attributed its thriving volunteer culture largely to Di Layzelle, head of student life, who has worked there for 25 years and encourages students to give back to their communities while they learn skills for work.

Mr Wadsworth said: "Volunteering supports our community and improves students' awareness of others' needs, but we recognise it develops valuable employability skills too.

"Student volunteering at Croydon College is on a remarkable, laudable and significant scale, led by an inspirational manager, Di Layzelle.  I am incredibly proud of the work that Di has achieved with our students and the scope and levels of the support they have delivered to benefit others.

"The Queen's Award for Volunteers is a wonderful recognition of exceptional work and we are very proud to receive it."

Ms Layzelle said: "It should never be underestimated how much young people can achieve."

A-level student Ryan Raghoo, 17, is one youngster who has reaped the rewards of volunteering.

He said: "Through my work with Unicef I have been involved with national and international campaigns, I have been given the chance to go and teach human rights in Denmark.

"I would encourage everybody to volunteer, it is a precious opportunity to develop as an individual."