Everton Free School Youth Worker Recognised In King’s Birthday Honours

An Everton Free School youth worker described as “a force of nature” has spoken of her shock at being awarded a British Empire Medal in The King’s Birthday Honours.

Danielle Cooper, who has worked at the Alternative Provision Free School in Walton since 2017, has been recognised for her services to vulnerable children and young people in Merseyside.

Having initially joined the school as a teaching assistant, Danielle later qualified as an English teacher, before turning her attention to safeguarding the welfare of students who have previously struggled in a mainstream education setting.

Her work in helping youngsters turn their lives around and, in many cases go on to pursue further education and employment, saw Danielle put forward for the honour, with her nomination being supported by the Department for Education (DfE).

She has also been credited by colleagues for helping increase the school attendance average by 25 per cent.

Danielle will now receive her honour at a local celebration event later in the year and has also been invited to a royal garden party to formally mark her achievement.

“I got a letter in the post and it looked very formal. It was a brown envelope and I thought, ‘that’s never good news’!” said Danielle, whose award was confirmed on Saturday as part of the formal announcement of the King’s Honours. “I couldn’t believe it. I had to read it about six or seven times to digest it properly.”

Danielle was told her work with one student in particular had prompted her nomination. The student in question overcame adversity and numerous failed attempts to settle in other schools to gain qualifications at Everton Free School and later employment.

However, she insists this is just one example of the many youngsters whose lives have been transformed by the school and those who work there.

Last week, the school was given an ‘outstanding’ Ofsted rating in a report that described its provision as “remarkable”.

Danielle said: “We’re talking about young people with extreme hardship – young people who have been through so much. It’s just a case of someone having their backs and fighting their corner, then pointing them in the right direction and giving them an opportunity.

“We taught [the student] how to cook, how to use public transport, got him his GCSEs… he’d been through six different schools and didn’t trust anyone. By the end he was so confident, assured, and succeeding in every way possible. It was lovely to see the difference that can be made when the right services are put in place.

“Genuinely, though, what makes me most proud is working with my colleagues in the school. They’re such a selfless group of people – everyone in this school deserves it.”

Steven Baker OBE, a former Everton Free School principal who now heads up The People’s Learning Trust, Everton’s Multi-Academy Trust, contributed to the nomination of Danielle.

It is not the first time her efforts have been recognised as last April she received ‘The Inspirational Educator for Alternative Learning Provision’ accolade at the Worshipful Company of Educators Awards.

Baker praised Danielle for repeatedly going above and beyond in her care and support of students and believes she is fully deserving of any reward that comes her way.

He said: “Danielle is officially a youth worker and teacher but she’s also a coach, a mentor, a family support worker… the list goes on.

“She will basically do anything and everything to help our students and their families. She works with some of the most disadvantaged in society but her motto for them is the same as Everton’s – nothing but the best is good enough.

“Anybody who has the good fortune to work with Danielle would call her a ‘force of nature’, which she truly is.”