As a schoolgirl in Harrow Carla Marie Williams' family couldn't afford to give her music lessons.

Now she's an international songwriting sensation having penned hits for Beyonce, Girls Aloud, Alesha Dixon and many more.

Carla returned to her old school, Bentley Wood High in Stanmore, this week and told students her success came from her determination not to give up on her dream.

The Wealdstone resident said: "The sky is the limit. My own career is down to sheer ambition and determination.

"I grew up in Harlesden, went to school here in Stanmore - now I'm moving to LA, working with amazing artists and with an opportunity to start a new chapter of my career in America.

"Hopefully sharing my story with the girls will help inspire them to follow their own dreams."

As a pupil at Bentley Wood Carla's talent for singing and music was already apparent, but her mother was unable to fund music classes or stage school.

The teenager made the most of free community services, winning a competition aged 15 to be flown to New York and perform at the Apollo.

Carla left school at 16 and found herself going from job to job, answering phones in call centres, selling alarms door to door and and eventually working for Brent Council and the Peabody Trust as youth worker.

She returned to music, singing backing vocals for artists including Ms Dynamite, Estelle, Corrine Baily Rae, Westlife, Bryan Ferry and Spiritualised.

Today the songwriter manages her own writing collective, NewCrowd, who birthed Beyonce’s Runnin' and write smash hits from London to LA.

In the past 12 months, Carla and her team have worked with UK and US acts such as DJ Mustard, Pia Mia, Rudimental, Wilkinson, Becky G, Shae Taylor, Warryn Campbell and most recently Paloma Faith.

Carla said: “The last 12 months have been so surreal yet so real, working with Beyonce has been one of the most inspirational experiences I have ever had.

"I went to LA and joined her in the studio, it's amazing she gave me the opportunity and didn't just go to people who are already recognised. She told me herself she likes new, fresh ideas.

"Runnin' for me is the start of the next chapter in my career, working internationally and not just in London."

Harrow Times:

At Bentley Wood Carla gave an assembly to Year 10,11 and 12 pupils and did a question and answer session with music students.

She said: "It was amazing to see the girls so inspired by my story, but more than that it was amazing to see the diversity of the girls playing instruments and singing in the music classes - that was something I found inspiring."

Carla has launched 'Girls I Rate' which brings successful female artists together to motivate an aspirational, diverse, young women within the creative industries.

She said: "First and foremost my passion is music and writing great songs that resonate with the masses.

"I want to make a difference for women in the creative industries and help create new platforms for artists and the next generation of women.

"I’m playing the big game, my mission is to help give others a vision that inspires and empowers them to follow their dreams."