Mark Cottingham


Shirebrook Academy

Wednesday 16 January 2019

Shirebrook Academy Principal: “Budget cuts are being felt keenly”

Mark Cottingham, principal of Shirebrook Academy on Common Lane, Shirebrook, said that cuts to education and social care budgets are being ‘felt keenly’. He said: “Shirebrook Academy is one of the lucky ones – I know of many headteachers having to make redundancies. “Education budgets were not exactly generous before, but schools now really have to tighten their belts.” Mr Cottingham commented after new figures show education spending has been slashed by more than £7bn since 2011. The Independent conducted a survey that revealed the extent of the crisis. The poll of 2,000 headteachers showed that 72 percent of heads are facing a deficit this school year, and four in five teachers are using their own money to support schoolchildren amid funding pressures.

Mr Cottingham said: “Staff are so careful with resources, such as photocopying and using older textbooks.

“Schools end up picking up the slack from cutbacks to social funding, such as social work and mental health. “We have a charity fund which we used to provide breakfasts for free school meal students in the run-up to Christmas. “Schools do things like this to make up for the gap in social care and support, as local authorities budgets are cut, and Universal Credit is introduced.” The Shirebrook Academy is one of the lucky schools.

Thanks to a good contingency plan and a new, efficient school building, staffing does not have to be cut like so many other schools.

“The government are insisting money has been spent on education, which is true if you look at pounds and pence. “However, if you take into account inflation and a rise in the number of pupils, in real terms, schools are worse off.” Adds Mr Cottingham. “Shirebrook Academy has less than 850 students, and you get to know those students well. “As 70 to 80 percent of a school’s budget goes on staffing, a bigger budget would mean more staff, and a personalised level of teaching.”


Mark Cottingham


Shirebrook Academy

Monday 16 July 2018

The summer holidays are nearly upon us and my hope for our students is that, in amongst enjoying the ice creams, the beach and the endless sunny hours, they have enough time to get bored, writes Mark Cottingham, principal at Shirebrook Academy.No, it’s not a very summery message, but the feeling of being bored is, in my opinion, a very underrated experience that is being lost in today’s entertainment-rich world.I know it’s not easy having to deal with a child who complains that they’ve got nothing to do and that parents naturally want to lay on a fun activity in order.However, I also hope that parents resist this temptation and tell them what I was told when I was in that situation at that age – to go and find something to do.Wisdom tells grown-ups that very often the activities you end up doing something to do are richer and more rewarding than those that are presented to you.Necessity is the mother of invention and so when children are bored they invent things, just as people do when they have a problem to solve.They create stories and games for themselves to fill the empty hours, allowing their imagination to run free.Studies have shown that a period of boredom is often a precursor to greater creativity than a period of activity is, as boredom prompts our brains to switch to a state where the sole focus is to find something to stimulate them, with incredible results.The problem with today’s technology is that it is always there to eliminate boredom.Hopefully, during this holiday, our students will get a chance to be bored and it will lead to creativity they may never have believed existed.And, as we know, being creative is a great way of expressing your individuality, which can be way better than your wellbeing than anything YouTube can provide.



Tuesday 19 June 2018

Mark Cottingham


Shirebrook Academy

For year 11 students at Shirebook Academy, June marks the end of their time at the school, which means it’s time for my annual speech at the leavers’ assembly. Strictly speaking, since students only ever hear it once, I could use the same speech every year. But instead I like to keep it varied and leave them with some pieces of wisdom among the congratulations and praise for their behaviour and attitude during their time at the school. However, my main message is always on a similar theme – the need for them to take control of their own lives and be individuals, not always worrying about what their friends think of them, not following the herd.

I also always tell them that they should take chances in life – they will live regret missed opportunities but will never regret trying something that didn’t work out. Whether they hold onto those thoughts, or forget about them, I don’t know.

But I do know that what they have achieved and experienced at school will influence them for the rest of their lives, for better or worse. One of the highlights of the assembly is the moment they look back on all the photos of the time with us and they laugh at how young they looked when they were freshly-arrived year sevens.

It is incredible to think how much they have changed in five years, which probably seemed like a lifetime to them but, by contrast, for us staff those five years have passed by with the blink of an eye, but there will still be a lot of emotion among the staff, especially the form tutors, who have shared their school journey with them. Who knows what the future holds for them? Some of them you know will be alright and they’re ready for their next chapter, others you worry about a bit and wonder how they will adjust to their new life. Whatever happens, we wish them well – and we look forward to welcoming more year sevens through the door, ready to start their journey.


Mark Cottingham


Shirebrook Academy

If anyone wants an example of how moving into a new building can help a school, then the past five years at Shirebrook Academy would make for an extremely good case study. That is the length of time, to the exact month, that we have been operating from our wonderful facility in Common Lane, which replaced a crumbling 1960s building on the other side of our site. Now, visitors walk into our reception and go ‘wow’ at what they see, we have a great reputation and we are full. The school has also become the pride of Shirebrook, the community uses the sports facilities extensively outside school hours and we also have ever-strengthening ties with Stubbin Wood Special School, which is co-located with us in our building.
What’s more, thanks to the care shown by our students and the hard work of our site staff, the building is still in excellent condition. For me, school buildings send out a strong message about how much society values young people’s education.

A modern and well-resourced building shows that we have invested in them and their futures, but an old, crumbling, building says this is how much we think of you and your education, and it isn’t a lot. Speaking as someone who once taught a class in a temporary building that had a hole in it so large a dog could walk through it – which did happen one morning – I understand all too well how a bad learning environment can affect students’ ability to learn.

And although you can have bad teaching in a good building, I know how this school helps endorse the quality of what we do. None of our current students remember the old building but many of the staff do and, even now, when someone complains about something, someone else will soon remind them of the old building, which puts it into context.

Principal’s Blog Christmas 2017

I hope you enjoy reading our final newsletter of 2017. As usual it reflects just some of the many opportunities we provide for our students beyond the basic curriculum. In this edition there are a number of stories about work-related learning and personal development which are vital in preparing our young people for life after Shirebrook, as well as a number of trips and charity and community work.

Of course, our students have also been working hard in lessons this term, especially Year 11 who had a series of mock exams in November and are busy reflecting on their strengths and areas for improvement ready for the final few months before the final exams in May & June.

Amidst all of this activity we haven’t forgotten about Christmas! This year we held our Christmas Concert in the Holy Trinity Church in Shirebrook for the first time and it was a very atmospheric setting for some superb performances. This was followed by our annual ‘Carols in Market Place’ event where our wind band and Y7 students were joined by members of Shirebrook Brass Band, local primary schools, parents, shoppers and market traders for a good
old Christmas sing song in the cold and frosty morning air.

Which leads me nicely on to wish you all a very
Happy Christmas and New Year, see you in 2018.


Principal’s Blog July 2017

The cycle of school life goes quickly, no sooner have we said goodbye to Y11 than our new Y7s arrive for their 2 week induction. It is always an exciting time for staff and students alike, getting to know each other and meeting lots of new people. This year we have 183 students joining us in September which is the biggest year group we have ever had, our actual Pupil Admission Number is 170 but there are so many local families who have chosen Shirebrook that we have made room for a larger number this year. To help with the increasing numbers were are making some changes to the building to create more teaching spaces, an extended Maz’s Place for lunchtimes and more changing rooms.

Apart from changes to the building we will not be making too many changes next year. We will be continuing to work hard with our students to improve their skills as independent learners through our Building Power Programme, encouraging them to adopt a ‘growth mind set’ so they take a positive, can-do attitude to learning. We have also increased the amount of lesson time we spend on Personal Development, including careers guidance and on supporting good mental health and well-being.

As always our priority remains for our young people to feel safe and happy in school and make the best
possible academic progress. With your support we will succeed.

To this end, could parents and carers please remember to make sure your child returns to school in September fully equipped with the correct school dress, PE kit, bag, stationery etc. By getting the basics right from the start we can avoid lost learning time and get straight on with business.

Have a great summer break.

Principal’s Blog May 2017

I hope you enjoy browsing through our latest newsletter.

As always it is packed with news about some of the special events and visits we have held in school. The Languages department take centre stage with their trip to Paris and fabulous Languages week activities, but Arts, Science, Sport & Personal Development feature prominently too.

It all goes to show what great opportunities there are at Shirebrook beyond the normal 30 lessons in the school week. Education is about so much more than formal lessons, although they are obviously a vital part of what we do! It is great to see so many of our students taking advantage of the activities, teams, trips and special events that add so much to their life experience and build useful skills and confidence for the future.

We are about to start exam season for Year 11, they have worked really hard towards these exams. They don’t need me to wish them luck because if they are well prepared luck won’t come into it.  Suffice to say that I hope they do themselves proud and get the results that they deserve.

Best wishes

Mark Cottingham

Principal, Shirebrook Academy

Principal’s Blog March 2017

With the lighter mornings and slightly warmer days of spring it feels as though we have turned a corner and everyone seems more energised and optimistic.

As ever our students have been keeping us busy and entertained in equal measure; it is always a privilege to spend time in the company of such interesting and energetic people and the range of accomplishments and activities in this month’s newsletters gives you a flavour of what is like to be part of this wonderful school community.

As you will be aware from previous letters that I have sent we are in the process of joining a Multi-Academy Trust called ACET and expect the legal process to be completed soon so that we can officially join on May 1st 2017. Being part of a Multi-Academy Trust will help us to continue to provide the best possible educational experience for your children. As part of a larger organisation of over 10 schools we can get better value for money for services and support each other with back office services as well as staff training, support and advice. Students and parents will probably notice little difference on the surface but we expect it to be really beneficial in the long term for our school.


Happy New Year to all our readers!

For many people it seems that 2016 was a year to forget. From the death of David Bowie in January to the Turkish terror attacks in December there was hardly a week went by without a bad news story hitting the headlines – and that is without mentioning Sheffield Wednesday’s cruel play-off defeat at Wembley!

However, for our little community at Shirebrook Academy there is always a lot to celebrate and to put a smile on our faces. One of the joys of working a school is the infectious optimism and good humour of the students and their ability to amaze and impress with their skills, energy and talents.

I always advise students to take control of their lives and make their own memories. Regardless of world events and things that are out of our control, at Shirebrook Academy we can make sure 2017 is a year to remember for all the right reasons.

I hope you enjoy reading about our wonderful students and on behalf of all the staff at the Academy I wish you all a very happy and successful 2017.

Principal’s Blog October 2016

I hope you enjoy our second newsletter of the 2016/17 academic year, sharing some of the highlights of another busy and exciting few weeks.

The most memorable events for me happened after our normal school hours.

On Saturday 15th October 2016, we were delighted to welcome spectators from across the local community and a world-wide audience on-line to a brilliant performance by the world renowned Black Dyke Band in our sports hall. If this was not remarkable enough our school wind band, alongside Shirebrook Minders’ Welfare Band and youngsters from Model Primary and St. Joseph’ Primary made it truly special by performing with the professionals. We are all very proud of them.

On the following Tuesday we held our celebration of success evening at the John Fretwell Centre. Tony Delahunty of Mansfield 103.2 fame presented the prizes and entertained us with his life-story, but the joy for me was seeing the smiles on the faces of the prize winning students and their families. You all fully deserve your moment in the spotlight and it was lovely to see so many ex-Year 11s return to collect their awards.

I get a lot of enjoyment from working with all our students during every school day; they never fail to surprise me, to make me laugh or to make me proud of them, but memorable events like these lift our hearts and bring the whole community together in celebration of our special young people.

Thank you for your continued support, as I always say, it is only by working as a team, parents, staff and students, that we will succeed in giving our young people the best start in life.

Principal’s Blog September 2016

Examination Results 2016

Examination results day is always a nervous one for staff and students alike as we wait to find out the results of our hard work.

This year was an unusual one because the measures used by government to assess a school’s effectiveness have been changed and it was difficult at first how to compare 2016 results with previous years.

Progress 8 is the new measure by which the Government measure a school’s effectiveness.

It is calculated by giving each subject taken by students a set score and then comparing the total with a projected figure that pupils would have been expected to achieve, based on their scores in their Year Six SATs exams.

The idea is to show how much the school helps pupils of all abilities to improve their academic performance and make progress, rather than simply judging schools based on the final exam grades.

A “0” score would indicate that pupils have achieved grades that would have been predicted before they even started secondary school – anything above zero indicates that the school has helped its students perform better than predicted.

Our figure for 2016 is -0.09 with confidence intervals of +0.1 and -0.28, which puts us broadly in line with national average.

However, the figure for students who have achieved A* to C grades in both English and Maths at the first attempt at 35% is below our expectations, despite being an improvement on the 29% achieved in the same measure in 2015.

That should not detract from all the hard work that staff and students have shown throughout the year and the excellent results achieved in many subjects by many students.

In the majority of subjects our results improved on our 2015 outcomes. We were particularly pleased that more students achieved at least one A* or A this year – up to 46% from 28% in 2015 – while the percentage getting three or more A* or A grades leapt from 10% to 18%.

There are many positives for us to reflect on and a lot of work to do to keep improving our students’ skills, knowledge and understanding to make sure they achieve the best exam results possible. We have a host of changes planned for the new school year to improve standards further and we are looking forward to next term getting underway.

Among the highest achieving students were:


Gareth Davis 12 GCSEs, 2A*, 1A, 7Bs, 2Cs

Liam Deneley 12 GCSEs, 4As, 8 Bs,

Cameron Hawley 11 GCSEs, 1A*, 3As, 7 Bs,

Ellie-Jae Locke 11 GCSEs, 1A*, 3As, 6Bs, 1C

George McDonnell 11 GCSEs, 3cs, 4bs, 3as and A* in Spanish
almost full marks

Albert Mezanec 10 GCSEs C+ including A* in Photography
(Albert is from Lithuania and only arrived here about 5 years ago.

Alyssia Middleton 10 GCSEs C+ including A in PE and Distinction* in Dance despite breaking her ankle in trampoline training just before the exams

Libby Parker 12 GCSEs, 1A*, 6As, 5Bs

Ebonnie Plant, 12 GCSEs, 1 A*, 3As, 3Bs, 3Cs

Morgan Powell 12 GCSEs, 1 A*, 3 As, 3Bs, 3Cs

Beth Wells, 12 GCSEs, 7As, 3 Bs, 2Cs

Kelsey Wilson, 11 GCSEs, 2A*, 4As, 4Bs, 1 C

Victoria Yeh 13 GCSEs, 1A** (Further Maths), 9 A*, 3As


A Message From The Principal

As this academic year draws to close it is a good time to reflect on my first year as Principal of Shirebrook Academy. I have really enjoyed getting to know the school and the local community and have been made to feel very welcome. I said at the outset that I did not see any reason to make great changes and whilst we are always looking to improve I hope that you recognise the strengths of the Academy remain.

However, some changes have been forced upon us. The one-year GCSE model that has served Shirebrook students well in the past will not work with the new-style GCSEs so next year’s Y10s will follow a traditional 2 year GCSE course. This has meant some smaller courses couldn’t run next year as there were just not enough students opting for them, which is a shame but out of our control.

Another change forced upon us was when the Aspire Sixth Form consortium with Bolsover, Springwell & Heritage schools had to be closed for financial reasons, disappointing a lot of our current Y11s who had hope to stay on.

However, I am certain that young people in this area need and deserve a sixth form and I am delighted that we have managed to strike a new deal between ourselves and Chesterfield College. The BTEC Health & Social Care and Work Related Learning courses are still running for next year’s Y12 and from September 2017 we will re-launch as Chesterfield College @ Shirebrook offering a full range of A level and BTEC courses between Shirebrook Academy & Chesterfield College. I hope that many of next year’s Y11 will choose to stay with us and study at Chesterfield College @ Shirebrook.

Other changes have been made by choice as I have identified an opportunity to improve things. Our library has been transformed by the appointment of Katy Noyes as our full-time librarian and with a refresh of the stock and systems. Moving tutor time to the morning has also helped get the day off to a positive start, reduced wasted learning time moving around in the afternoon and increased opportunities for whole school communal activities at lunchtime – arts week proving a great example of that recently.

We are currently making changes to the school environment by providing more space to display students work and celebrate their achievements around school and we also have plans to improve the science labs and build more changing facilities. We are also introducing a new internet based information system called SIMS Learning Gateway that will allow you to see live data on your child’s attendance, behaviour, progress and achievements. There will also be a new system for encouraging students to take on leadership roles and get their voice heard in school through Year Team Reps and a Junior Leadership Team that will have its own budget and genuine power to introduce things that the students want to help the school improve.

However, the biggest development I want us to focus on is a long-term one and it is to do with learning. Whilst I know our staff and students work incredibly hard I think we can all be better learners and instead of working harder, work smarter.

I wrote about the Growth Mind Set initiative in a previous newsletter and that is part of a major programme we are launching in September called ‘Building Learning Power’. This approach will help our young people to not only achieve well in exams but develop the skills that employers look for, that they need to be life-long learners and to succeed beyond Shirebrook Academy.

As ever, for us to succeed in helping our young people be the best that they can be, we will need to work together and pull in the same direction. I look forward to building our learning power together over the next few years.


New Year Principal’s Message

On behalf of everyone at Shirebrook Academy I’d like to wish a Happy New Year to everyone in the Shirebrook community and in particular to our students, parents, carers and partners.

We had some sad news just before Christmas when Marilyn Howarth, who had worked in the catering team at Shirebrook for over 25 years, died after a short battle with cancer. Marilyn, known to everyone as Maz, left behind many friends and family members amongst the Shirebrook Academy community and I am pleased to announce that Maz’s family have kindly agreed that we can rename our canteen area ‘Maz’s Place’ in her memory. We will be holding an ‘opening ceremony’ as soon as the new signage is ready.

People often use this time of year to reflect on their lives and set themselves goals for the year ahead, or at least make resolutions to do something different – lose weight, exercise more, learn to play the saxophone – but more often than not we quickly fall back into old habits. Making a change is hard and we need to show great resilience if we are to succeed.

That quality of resilience is the most important ingredient in any recipe for success and it’s something I talk to our students about often. It is not something that can really be taught but we do try to offer our young people new experiences and challenges so that they can learn from struggle and failure and learn the importance of not giving up. It might seems strange that the Principal of the school wants his students to fail, but it is through struggle and failure that we learn.  If we only stick to what we know we can do, we will never improve; a sportsperson who only ever meets opponents they can easily beat will never develop the skills to become a top player.

As Thomas Edison said: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

So, we will continue to challenge our students and our staff this term in the aim of reaching new heights. In assemblies during the first week of the new term I’ve set all students and staff an easy to remember 5 pronged challenge, The 5 Ps: Present; Punctual; Prepared; Polite and Proud. If we all work to those simple principles we won’t go far wrong in school or adult life.

Welcome from the Principal

I am pleased an.d privileged to have been asked to become Principal of Shirebrook Academy, starting on 1st September 2015

I have been a teacher for almost 25 years. I trained as a history teacher but have also taught geography, RE and English at schools across South Yorkshire and Derbyshire, and also spent two fascinating years as a Lecturer in Education at the University of Leeds. For the last five years I have been the Head Teacher of a small secondary school in Derby.

People are understandably nervous when there is a change of leadership in a school but whilst I will naturally have my own ideas on how we can continue to develop over the coming years, I can assure you I will not be making changes for change sake. Of course there are always ways in which a school can improve and I’m very interested in hearing your views on how we can work together to make our school even better.

As a parent you want to send your son or daughter to school each morning knowing that they will be cared for, supported and encouraged to be the best that they can be. Everyone in a school is there to learn and I believe people learn best when they feel happy and safe and it is my job to make sure that everyone at Shirebrook feels that way. But learning should also be a challenge, we should be prepared to fail and make mistakes sometimes because we get better that way.

If I have learned anything about successful schools over my 25 years in teaching, it is that they work best when everyone is pulling in the same direction, working together as a community for the same goal. That goal should always be to give young people the best possible start in life so that they are able to take control of their lives and make their own choices about their own future. A school should also be at the heart of its local community, supporting adults and the young alike to make their community a lively, thriving and positive place to live.

Shirebrook Academy has clearly been very successful in achieving that goal in the recent past and you should all be rightly proud of the school’s achievements. I am excited by and ambitious for the future development of the school and see enormous potential for the future successes of our young people. I can promise you that I will work tirelessly to make sure Shirebrook Academy, continues to thrive and that this community has a school to be proud of for many years to come.

Mr M Cottingham