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The Inspirational Educator Awards for Alternative Learning Provision Winner: Danielle Cooper

The Inspirational Educator Awards for Alternative Learning Provision
Winner: Danielle Cooper
Nominator: Steve Baker, Principal Everton Free School, Liverpool
Everton Free School was the first in England to receive government funding as part of a ‘Premiership Club Community’ Scheme – a ground-breaking initiative for young people across Merseyside.

Located in one of the most deprived areas of Liverpool, it caters for 120 students aged 13-16 who have been or are at risk of permanent exclusion. Its ten-year success with students with complex adverse childhoods,
received national recognition in 2022 when it won the TES award for Specialist School Provision of the Year.

Danielle Cooper joined Everton Free School in 2017 as a Teaching Assistant while undertaking a PGCE and is currently completing her QTLS qualification. Coming from a working-class background herself,
Danielle is a community champion. She understandsthe needs and sensitivities of children and families in socially challenged communities and treats them with respect. Her motto for them is the same as Everton’s – ‘Nothing but the best is good enough’.

Her role in the school is complex. With a degree in youth work, she is a youth engagement worker and family support worker, ensuring that children are fed, have shelter, and emotional support. She builds
strong home-school relationships and has supported families of students by brokering food parcels, electricity top ups and sourcing other essentials where she identifies hardship. Where she identifies physical need or mental health support, she manages to secure the necessary resources against the odds.

As a teacher, Danielle works tirelessly to remove barriers that prevent young people engaging with learning. Negative experiences in mainstream education often result in poor levels of literacy which
hold students back across a range of subjects. Danielle has introduced innovative approaches to reading and her cohort has seen a significant improvement in reading ages and writing skills.

She is currently working on a DfE-funded AP Specialist Taskforce pilot project in a multi-disciplinary team where she is tutoring students on a 1:1 basis to improve their literacy skills. Danielle has co-ordinated half-term
and summer activities programmes to ensure that our students and their families have the chance to participate in a range of activities which enrich their experience and encourage their engagement. As a result, her students increased their school attendance by 25%.

Crime and violence is a topic which Danielle tackles with energy. In association with the Merseyside Violence Reduction Partnership, Danielle has developed a scheme for a group of Year 11 students to
mentor their younger peers to alert them to potential risk. She has collaborated with a variety of youthcentred agencies such as Merseyside Youth Association and Weapons Down Gloves Up; achieving some exceptional outcomes such as reduced NEET and criminal exploitation figures.

She is currently co-ordinating our first Everton Free School performing arts production for students to demonstrate their talents and challenge the stigma that AP students are ‘no-hopers’. She is also co-ordinating a social
action project to tackle youth crime in which students run a business selling EFC-branded ice-cream.

Danielle is a coach, a mentor, a teacher, a support worker who works tirelessly to help her students and their families. As her nominator says, ‘she is a force of nature’. But let a parent have the last say:
“It is refreshing as a parent to see my son being treated like an individual for a change, being able to
make life decisions without being told what he must do, being treated like a growing adult and giving
him such life changing experiences which we can’t afford to do with him. Thank you.”

A link to the album of award winners


Department for Education CEOP Everton in the Community Everton FC Premier League Michael Causer Foundation The Sharp System Peel Ports Group Ofsted Parent View The Duke of Edinburgh's Award Spirit Foundation Warwick Wealth