Writing his way to success

February 6, 2020

Outcomes Focused, Child Centred
Northern Education Trust

Writing his way to success

Outcomes Focused, Child Centred
Northern Education Trust

February 6, 2020, 4:30 pm

Writing his way to success

The Northern Echo recently invited schools across the region to take part in a story writing competition, ahead of their landmark 150th anniversary, asking pupils to focus on a past or present event that was important to them or their community. They were overwhelmed by the number and quality of the entries, and had a tough job to pick the winners in the three age categories.

 Northern Education Trust North Shore Academy is delighted to announce that Year 8 student Harley Clarke was the winner of the age 10-13 category.  Harley said: “I was amazed when an English teacher here at North Shore came up to me saying ‘you’ve won!’  It made me think that if my piece was published, it means it may be good doing something journalistic.  Maybe one day I might join the Northern Echo if I can’t achieve being in Highways England.”

 This is Harley’s story:

An interesting and emotional Remembrance Day lesson was put to Y8 North Shore Academy students by a local singer.

Stockton musician Mike McGrother, well known for his choir ‘Infant Hercules’ and his band ‘The Wild Cats of Kilkenny’ came in to North Shore Academy on November 5 2019 to highlight the importance of remembering the fallen in World War One and other conflicts through the use of music and poetry to Year Eight classes in an interesting way. No better way to introduce students than a game – McGrother initiated a word association game starting with the word ‘remembrance’, which he said “can go any way – not just for war.’’ Many choices and opinions struck the class, including family and the close deceased.

On the interactive whiteboard was a photo of George Hunter, who was from Stockton-on-Tees and went to fight in World War One.  He was ‘shot at dawn’ for cowardice and desertion after being sentenced to death on July 2, 1916 near Ypres, Belgium. McGrother told his story of him, and it taught the students some of their town heritage.

He then sang a song, based on a poem that a teacher present in the class had written when he was only 12 years old – it was very sentimental and very emotional, striking a strong tear in the eye. It showed the poignancy of music to remembering people you knew and/or once loved.

Students, after receiving inspiration from the songs and stories, began writing their own poems and letters beginning with ‘Dear mam, today is my last day…’ for a chance to get it transformed in an emotional song to be sung by McGrother and his choir at the academy’s Literature Café. It was distinguishable that the songs he sang before and during their work inspired creativity in what they wrote – and brought some to the verge of tears.

A boy then read out his sombre letter from the eyes of a soldier and the emotional part of it tugged instantly, mentioning his hunger, hypothermia and horror…all with it starting with ‘Dear Mam, today is my last day…’ He also encouraged students to come out of their comfort zone and read their sentimental works.

Mike McGrother then told another story inspiring town heritage during WW1 – a soldier, by the name of ‘Robert’ was meant to return home to his family at The Spread Eagle (the pub in place of Café Nero in Wellington Square, Stockton at the time) but got hit three days before his supposed return.

He didn’t die instantly, and whilst in hospital with a nurse, she listed all of the things he said he wanted to do before he died. Sadly, he didn’t get to fulfil his wishes.

This led to Mike mentioning not only the importance of music, but physical publications too – he chose The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas (film and book based on WWII’s Operation Pied Piper) as the book that struck chords with him the most.

He also mentioned his ventures for things such as mental health and his heritage. For example, as McGrother’s past heritage were Irish refugees, he walked from County Monaghan in Ulster, Northern Ireland to Teesside to feel what it was like for them – along the way, Mike brought his guitar and sang many songs in many pubs and bars to members of the public. It took him a long but rewarding week.

At the end of this lesson, the sadness and interest was visible throughout the whole class, and the theme of Remembrance, as they left the classroom, had struck and struck strong.


North Shore Academy is a member of the Northern Education Trust.
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