A News story by Ellena Schuster-Farrell 29 January 2019

Greenfield E-ACT Academy was absolutely brimming with pride at the end of last term, as Learning Mentor and Mental Health Lead Sarah Purnell was named as one of BBC Radio Bristol’s Christmas Heroes.

Back in December, BBC Radio Bristol presenter Emma Britton asked listeners to nominate their ‘Christmas Heroes’: people who had gone above and beyond to make the festive period better for others. Sarah Purnell was nominated for her amazing fundraising efforts, having raised £5500 to take Greenfield pupils to see Cinderella at the Bristol Hippodrome. She was then invited to the BBC studio and interviewed live on air by Emma Britton.

“When I found out that I had been nominated, I was shocked… I just thought, what would someone pick me for? It was a bit nerve-wracking going into the station but it was lovely to be recognised for the hard work.”

Like many other E-ACT academies, Greenfield has a high percentage of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, with 51% eligible for Pupil Premium.  For Sarah, ensuring that every pupil at Greenfield has the opportunity to attend a trip like this is incredibly important.

“Some children will never have the chance to have an experience like this, because we are in an area of really high deprivation. We have so many children who, without us, wouldn’t experience the pure delight and happiness that comes from being in a beautiful theatre and watching a performance. It’s vital that we work with the community to give our pupils these experiences.”

For the last two years, Sarah has planned and fundraised throughout the year to ensure that every pupil in Year 1 to Year 6 has the chance to visit the Bristol Hippodrome. In 2017, she held non-uniform days, cake sales and even crazy hair days, successfully raising enough money to take over 340 pupils to see Aladdin.

Sarah threw herself into fundraising again in 2018, writing to local companies to secure prizes for competitions and running events like fun runs and danceathons to get the community involved in raising money for the trip. Greenfield’s parent group, Frogs (Friends of Greenfield), also helped out by donating the money raised through their annual summer fair.

As well as raising money, Sarah was responsible for planning the whole-academy trip: arranging risk assessments, ensuring that 343 permission slips had been collected and checking that children eligible for free school meals were provided with a packed lunch. While each trip certainly involved a great deal of hard work, for Sarah the end result made it all worthwhile.

“I will never forget those children’s faces when they first walked into the theatre. It was pure astonishment and amazement. Both last year and this year, every single child sat through the whole performance absolutely transfixed. I feel like we’ve given them a really special experience.”

Well done Sarah, you certainly deserve your hero status!