COLUMN: Perseverance and passion are key to achieving success, by Mark Cottingham, Shirebrook Academy Principal

Earlier this month, we celebrated the grand finale of our literacy week and did our bit for World Book Day by inviting staff and pupils to come to school dressed as Harry Potter characters.

It was a great success, although it gave a slightly surreal air to a talk from our latest school visitor, Baroness Morris of Yardley, the former education secretary, who joined courtesy of the Speakers for Schools organisation.

Visiting speakers are excellent for giving students a different view of life but what stood out for me was not so much Baroness Morris’s achievements, but the setbacks she had to overcome.

Look into the life history of pretty much every successful person and you find that they have had to battle adversity.

This is true for Baroness Morris, whose application to become a Labour candidate was originally turned down, as it was for my personal hero, the late Muhammed Ali, who fought to reclaim his boxing licence after being stripped of his title for refusing to serve in Vietnam.

Indeed, JK Rowling’s own story about how she was turned down by a host of publishers has become almost as famous as her tales of her boy wizard have.

What links all three is perseverance, which is the theme of some work we are doing to teach our pupils the skills they need to make a success of their lives.

It was also the reason behind why earlier this term our school atrium was filled with thousands of small origami cranes and why very soon our staff and pupils will be showing off their juggling skills.

The work is part of our building learning power programme, which teaches students how to become better learners by developing life-skills such as curiosity, attention to detail and never giving up, all of which are necessary for learning how to fold paper cranes - a task which derives from Japanese folklore – and to juggle.

For Baroness Morris, perseverance, combined with her passion for education and flair for debating and people, led her to serve in the corridors of power, an incredible achievement for someone who, as a girl, didn’t dare tell anyone of her desire to go into politics and who did not achieve great success academically at school.

Instead, she followed her dreams, never said no to an opportunity and never gave up – an approach which will stand any of our students 
in good stead no matter 
how high they set their ambitions.