Inspirational achievements of pupils across Portsmouth were celebrated with lashings of Hollywood glamour at an Oscar-themed awards ceremony.
The Pupil Oscars – which almost fell victim to council cutbacks this year – were held at the Kings Theatre in Southsea to pay tribute to dozens of outstanding young people.
There were five overall winners out of 110 worthy nominees from 27 schools, with categories for contribution to school life, attendance, service to the community, overcoming difficulties and curriculum achievement.
It was a night of amazing success stories that took place in spite of major council cutbacks earlier this year.
Initially the council was going to sever the entire £25,000 annual grant because of budgetary pressures.
But a group of youngsters determined to make it happen lobbied and won a £4,000 rebate.
Ben Dowling, 17, a Havant College student and one of the organisers, says: ‘We were 100 per cent determined that the Pupil Oscars were going to take place.
‘It’s been incredibly hard work but worth it, because we’ve given a platform to some of the most deserving and inspirational young people in the city.
‘I’m proud of everyone who has been involved and has helped pull off an amazing night to remember.’
Nominations for the Pupil Oscars were submitted by school peers and the five overall category winners were selected by a panel of student judges.
Cllr Cheryl Buggy, Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, says: ‘I think it is absolutely fantastic that the young people of this city rescued the Pupil Oscars.
‘We have a problem in this country where we fail to celebrate success, so I’m thrilled this event went ahead.
‘It’s been a fantastic night and I have a lot of sympathy for the schools who must have struggled to make their nominations as, from my experience, there are so many amazing and talented children in our schools.
‘What is for certain is that the future of this city is in very safe hands.’
Cllr Rob Wood, cabinet member for education, adds: ‘It is so important to celebrate the achievements of our pupils, both academically but also as people who care and contribute to their communities.’
Nominated pupils received a certificate and a £10 gift voucher. The category winners won a certificate and a £50 voucher.
Winner - Philippa Kearney
It’s hard to know where to start with Philippa Kearney, who has excelled in most things.
The athletic 16-year-old has already got 100 per cent in her maths and English GCSEs, and dropped just one mark in her triple science GCSE – comprising 12 exams – which she sat early.
Philippa, a Priory School student, is also an active member of the city’s youth parliament and last year visited Downing Street to campaign against cuts to a major capital funding scheme.
And as a sports leader and member of the sports leadership academy, she tours primary schools in the area to help teach them basic skills to boost their ability and confidence.
Philippa is also a sports ambassador for Portsmouth, which means she is involved in promoting healthy living and the principles of the Olympics through campaigns and initiatives in schools city-wide.
She says: ‘I was surprised to win because I was in the company of such a fantastic group of students who have all achieved so much.
‘Everyone here tonight has an amazing story, and I’m incredibly proud to have won.
‘The Pupil Oscars show just what a positive impact young people in this city are making, and I hope it inspires others to do the same.’
CONTRIBUTION TO SCHOOL LIFE
Winner - Finna De Greef
Finna De Greef may only be eight, but as a member of the governing body and school council she has a hand in hiring teachers, determining how money is spent and fundraising for good causes.
In the past year, she has supported a major sponsored walk that raised more than £1,000 for Action Aid and lobbied her teachers for the girls’ toilet to be repainted.
The Wimborne Juniors student says: ‘I think it’s important to do everything I can to help make my school better and let the teachers know what the pupils like.
‘I’ve enjoyed interviewing teachers for our school and making important decisions like spending money on the toilets to make them nicer.
‘I’ve been working very hard this year, but I really enjoy doing good things because they make people happy.
‘Sometimes when pupils are a bit down at school, I sit with them on the bench and cheer them up.’
Winner - Francesca Nancarrow
Courageous 13-year-old Francesca Nancarrow suffered a traumatic experience when she was younger, but in spite of the bad memories always keeps a smile on her face.
The City of Portsmouth Girls’ student, who wept with a mixture of joy and surprise when she received her Pupil Oscar, says: ‘I always think to myself there are people in this world who have suffered a lot more than I have.
‘It’s been difficult but I don’t want to let my past destroy me. I want to use everything I know to help others.
‘My parents divorced which made everything worse, but now a friend is going through the same thing and I’m there for her.
‘I don’t think what I do is special. I’m just trying to stay positive for my friends and my family.’
She adds: ‘Winning the Pupil Oscar was incredibly emotional. It’s a huge honour, but one of the other students nominated was in a wheelchair and I wished he had won it. I think his life must be so hard and he deserves it.’
SERVICE TO THE COMMUNUITY
Winner - Jordan Taylor
Thanks to the relentless campaigning of 11-year-old Jordan Taylor, his school environment is a much safer place.
The junior road safety officer warned parents aboutparking on the zig zag lines at both entrances to his school – and even wrote to a taxi firm and had words with a neighbouring school head to make sure the law was obeyed.
Jordan, of St Swithun’s Primary, says: ‘Parking on the zig-zag lines is very dangerous as pupils crossing the road to come to school can’t see the cars.
‘We’ve done a lot of campaigning and at the moment no-one is parking illegally, which suggests we’ve been successful.’
Jordan is also passionate about supporting charity and has raised about £300 for the British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research through cake sales and stalls over the past year.
Winner - Amelia Blay
In seven years Amelia Blay has only missed one day of school - when she was a bridesmaid at her cousin’s wedding.
The 11-year-old’s extraordinary attendance record has been achieved despite her three younger brothers being diagnosed with chiari malformation, a condition when the skull has an abnormality and puts pressure on the base of the brain.
This can result in paralysis.
Amelia, who attends St Swithun’s Primary, says: ‘I love school so much because the teachers are lovely, the lessons are fun and I enjoy sports and all the extra-curricular activities.
‘Even when I don’t feel my best I never skip a day because I worry I’d miss something and it just wouldn’t feel normal. I was a bit annoyed I ruined my 100 per cent record with the wedding!’