School is more than just an exam factory

Mark Cottingham, principal of Shirebrook Academy.
Mark Cottingham, principal of Shirebrook Academy.

I have always been drawn during my teaching career to schools which are strongly rooted in their local communities and that certainly applies to Shirebrook Academy, which is the only secondary school in the town, writes Mark Cottingham.

This means that pretty much everybody’s children go there and that the school is part of the fabric of the town, which gives us an opportunity to play a part in its day-to-day life.

The school certainly does its bit in this respect, with a series of annual events including a summer fun day and a Christmas carol concert.

The school’s facilities are used extensively by local sports groups and it holds EAL lessons for adults.

This year, students are providing designs to decorate the shutters of some shops in town.

And one student, Ilona Esanu, provided a new piece of artwork for the cemetery chapel.

This activity is important to me, because it demonstrates that schools are more than exam factories and can help to bring the community together.

It tells the town that the school is proud to be a part of it and shows students the value of respecting and contributing towards it.

I want people to know that the school is not encouraging its students to use their education in order to leave Shirebrook in favour of the bright lights elsewhere, but that their education can be put to good use on their doorsteps.

If the town invests in the school, that investment will be repaid, while the benefits of community work to students cannot be underestimated either.

We hear all the time of the bad name that young people have, but when they are praised by their local community for doing something positive, it boosts their self-esteem.

It can also boost their career prospects too.

I tell students that the school they went to acts as a quality mark for them when they go for a job.

So if they help the school get a good name, it will pay dividends for them in the long run.