Queen praises youth coaches

THE QUEEN has chosen to honour a Matlock school's innovative sports project with a prestigious Award for Voluntary Service.

Highfields School has earned the accolade - the group equivalent to an MBE - for its successful Sports Leadership Academy, which has been encouraging youngsters to gain coaching qualifications since 2003.

Headteacher Dr Ramsey Tetlow said: "We are delighted to receive this award, which recognises the tremendous work of academy members in the community.

"Education is not just about gaining certificates, important though that is.

"It is about developing the whole person and if we can make a positive contribution to our community at the same time as building essential life and work skills in our students, then everyone benefits."

Academy director Jayne Allen was very excited by the news and was looking forward to the visit from the Duke of Kent, who will present the award at the school on Thursday June 17, on behalf of Her Majesty .

She said: "We will treasure this award and it will spur us on in our work developing young leaders for life.

"I look back to our first intake of 2003, when ten students were enrolled.

"This year there are 350 academy members, collectively giving over 3,500 hours of voluntary service each year."

As a result of the academy, a team of eight teachers has helped students gain qualifications and find suitable community sports schemes for them to support.

Typical placements have included work with elderly people and primary school children and at sports clubs.

Highfields has also appointed six pupils - Rebecca Hinchley, Josh Moody, Sam Mak, Tom Ingham, Jenny O'Reilly andGina Camfield - to act as ambassadors to promote sport throughout Derbyshire.

The ambassadors have gained further training from the Youth Sports Trust and will help organise some elements of the 2012 Olympics celebrations.

The school believes the academy has helped pupils gain self-esteem, motivation and organisational skills.

Some academy students have even gained jobs in sport, including twocommunity coaches and one sports development officer.

Willie Tucker, the Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire, said: "I am very pleased that HRH The Duke of Kent has so readily agreed to present the award.

"This will make it a very special day and will suitably endorse the importance of the award."

The Queens Award for Voluntary Service is the highest honour available to voluntary organisations and will be given to just 103 groups this year.

Members of the public had nominated more than 340 groups.