Gold Medal Winning Paralympian Shares Her Experiences At Academy Awards Night

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Somercotes Academy Award winners with Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and Tollbar MAT Chair, Philip Bond (both left), and Tollbar MAT Chief Executive, David Hampson and Somercotes Academy Principal, Caroline Yates (both right).

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, one of Britain's greatest athletes, presented awards to students at Somercotes Academy's Annual Presentation Evening just 24 hours after appearing on live television in Canada, commentating for the BBC at The Invictus Games.

Following a seven hour flight and a four hour car journey from Heathrow Airport, Tanni, who won 11 Gold medals in five Paralympic Games, and has also won the London Wheelchair Marathon six times, arrived with a single message for the students: Honour your commitments, work hard and never give up.

The Baroness, who was also the first Paralympian to commentate on Olympic Sport at the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in London, retired from racing in 2007. In 2010, she became a cross-bench peer, who works hard for disability rights, sport, health, welfare and youth development, and tirelessly campaigns for many charities.

She joined students from Somercotes Academy at the Riverhead Theatre in Louth for their second ever awards night. The academy, which opened as a member of Tollbar Multi Academy Trust in 2015, was celebrating progress, achievement and endeavour across the whole curriculum.

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Elliott Jones (centre) receives his awards from David Hampson, Tollbar MAT Chief Executive, and Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson.

Earlier in the day, Tanni visited the newly-refurbished academy, sharing some of her career experiences with students. She told them: "I knew I wanted to do wheelchair racing from the age of 13, and by 18 I was training 15 times a week. If you want to be good at something you have do it over and over again. There is no escape from hard work. I would like to be able to tell you that there is a quicker route, but there simply isn't."

Tanni admitted to "throwing up" before almost every big race in her career, and the nerves continued throughout. "I just had to learn to deal with it," she said.

"But I remember watching the London Marathon as a child and telling my mum, I am going to do that one day. It is about setting yourself a goal, dreaming big and getting up on that start line. Don't ever be afraid to try."

Tanni presented 80 awards to students in front of a packed theatre of proud parents, family and friends. More than 40 students performed Musical accompaniments to the evening, including Somercotes Choir, Charlie Beevers on keyboard; and soloists Asha McGrath and Lucie Wells. There were also speeches from Academy Principal, Caroline Yates; Tollbar MAT Chief Executive, David Hampson; and Tollbar MAT Chair, Philip Bond.

When the academy opened in 2015 as a member of Tollbar Multi Academy Trust it had just 200 students. That figure has almost doubled in two years.

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Somercotes Academy students and staff in the Fitness Suite at the academy with Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson (centre).

Caroline Yates said: "Somercotes Academy is a beacon of academic excellence and is at the heart of the efforts to improve the education of children in this local community. My thanks to staff for all their hard work and dedication in helping students to achieve so well."

Following on from another summer of outstanding GCSE results, David Hampson, said: "I can only describe the examination outcomes for Somercotes Academy's Year 11 students (67% in Maths and English) as stupendous.

"The students achieved well beyond what could justifiably have been expected of them, given the very poor support they experienced at their predecessor establishments and the fact they have only had a maximum of two years under Tollbar MAT's tutelage.

"I therefore want to express my personal thanks, and, I am sure the appreciation of the parents and students, to all the staff of Somercotes Academy for their commitment, support, tenacity and belief that the students could achieve this level of success."

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Somercotes Academy GCSE Art students, (back row l-r) Thomas Chatterton, Poppy Persaud, Sapphire Wane and Teaching staff, Jessica Pepper and Sam Lyons. Seated are Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and student Ella March.

Among the awards presented during the evening were the Chief Executive's Special Award, which went to Elliott Jones, who also won the Principal's Cup for Best Valued Added GCSE Results. Melissa Jenney won the Philip Bond Award for Best GCSE results; and the Rob Palmer Award for Student Voice went to Phoebe Perrow. Manisha Bains accepted the House Cup on behalf of Dorado House.

Elliott Jones, whose GCSE results included four A* grades and two As, a grade 7 and 8 in English, and a 7 in Maths, were far beyond what had been predicted at Key Stage 2. Now studying for his Physics, Chemistry and Maths A Levels at Tollbar MAT Sixth Form College, he said: "I am pleased to have received these awards and I am enjoying my time at Sixth Form College."

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Manisha Bains accepts the House Cup on behalf of Dorado House from Tanni Grey-Thompson.

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KS3 Music Award Winner, Charlie Beevers, presents Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson with a gift from the academy.

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Somercotes Academy Principal

Frances Green

Tollbar MAT Chief Executive

David J Hampson