A Shirebrook student who tried to end her life last year has paid tribute to her teachers and beloved pet dog after she picked up the GCSE results needed to follow her dreams to become a plasterer.
Lara-Lee Jones, aged 16, says that she is now looking to the future after turning her life around over the past 12 months, having decided that she had nothing to live for last July.
Lara-Lee is now set to start a diploma course in plastering and construction at Vision West Nottinghamshire College after she got the grades she needed, including in her Maths and English, following months of hard work at the end of a difficult school career.
She put her success down to her own changed attitude towards her life, the support of her teachers and the unspoken and unconditional support of her one-year-old Bedlington-whippet cross, Binks.
She said: “My teachers have been brilliant, but without Binks I wouldn’t be here today. I tried to kill myself on a number of occasions last July, but I was given him soon after and he has made a massive difference.
“He’s given me a purpose in my life and having him by my side helped me to change my outlook and encouraged me to work hard at school. I’ve never liked school, but I’m grateful to the teachers who helped me and I’m really happy to be going on to study to become a plasterer.
“It suits me because I’m a hands-on person and I like practical subjects.”
Lara-Lee’s mum, Sarah, added: ”Binks has been Lara-Lee’s guardian angel. She has been through some extremely difficult times and had an extremely traumatic last 12 months but he has been a constant companion to her and helped her to realise that she has a future.
“I very grateful to the teachers at Shirebrook Academy and very proud of Lara-Lee.”
Another student who had to overcome setbacks to get her GCSEs was Anna Speed, who picked up nine GCSEs, including a 7 for English Language, a 6 for PE and a 5 for maths – even though she struggled with illness all the way through.
She said: “I’ve had months’ worth of bad stomach trouble and it got in the way of my studies and when I woke up for my maths exam, I kept vomiting and I didn’t feel well enough to go in.
“I went in though and sat the exam, and it was awful all the way through. I need maths so that I can study performing arts at Vision West Nottinghamshire College, so I was worried that I didn’t do well enough, so I’m really happy to have got the grade I needed.”
Overall, Shirebrook Academy has shown a marked improvement on last year’s GCSE results, with 40% of students achieving at least or Grade 5 or above and 64% achieving a Grade 4 or more in English and Maths.
Mark Cottingham, principal of Shirebrook Academy, said: “As ever, our students have worked extremely hard, many under the most trying of circumstances, to achieve a set of results that, as a school, we are very pleased with.
“There have been significant changes to the GCSE exams which have made them much harder for students so to beat last year’s outcomes and record the school’s best-ever results is a real achievement.”