Tuesday 17th March 2009 by C. Freeman
More than a decade ago Brooke Weston was the focus of a BBC television documentary with students, Danny Kelly and Kerry James, featuring prominently. Now each are on different career paths with Danny pursuing his musical aspirations while Kerry runs her own company.
Danny was 17 when he took part in the 'Schooled for Success' documentary, which was aired in 1998. He was one of a handful of students to appear at length in the film, which showed a typical day in the life of Brooke Weston.
Danny said: 'When you are just 16 or 17 you are starting to become an adult and I had certain opinions and they came across on the documentary. It's an incredibly strange thing to see yourself on screen but I made some kind of good points about Corby and believing in yourself. It wasn't something I was initially conscious of, it was something that I articulated out of the blue.'
On the documentary Danny said: 'What school tries to do is to make you want to achieve, not just because it will please the teachers, but because you want to do it inside, you want to make something of yourself. You want to look back and be proud of what you have done because it's important. It's important in everyday life, not just at school.'
Danny, who got six GCSEs and some A Levels, went on to study Music Technology at De Montfort University in Leicester before travelling to China, Germany and America where he lived in Hollywood. He has had a variety of jobs and is currently working for a Corby-based medical firm, but his main interest is music.
He said: 'The last ten years have been interesting with peaks and troughs. I've always wanted to perform music and at certain times it was successful but I just want to have some stability for a couple of years. I have a plan to go and live in Germany and do an Open University course in German. I still do have plans and dreams.'
Recalling his time as a student here Danny said : 'There are very good memories of typical teenage years and the turbulence that was involved in them. This is something I never forget and something that I appreciate more and more as I get older, the teachers did believe in me. Throughout everything they did believe that I could come to something and that was quite good to have that faith.'
Kerry James also featured in the documentary when she was 15. Now aged 27 she has her own business, is Chair of Governors at Corby Business Academy, and sat next to Prime Minister, Gordon Brown at its recent opening.
She said: 'I've always been driven. Had I gone to a different school I don't think I would have been nurtured so well. My whole approach to life has come from the foundation that this school gave me.'
After leaving Brooke Weston with 14 GCSEs and A Levels, Kerry went straight to work. She was employed by a bank before finding her niche in an IT company where, after four years, she was leading a team of ten people. She and her business partner set up Igneous Solutions, a data management company in Northampton. Social services departments from all over the country use Igneous's recording systems to track essential data. This can then be manipulated and analysed by employees from social workers right up to Director of Social Services Level and it means that essential data can be collated and analysed quickly and effectively.
Kerry said: 'This automates a lot of the work of manual data entry and it means that the actual people in the IT teams in social services can go back to what their role should be which is business analysis, looking at the data and making decisions on it. Our target of rolling this out to other Social Services departments, will double our revenue next year and yet we're still only skimming the surface of what is achievable.'
Kerry has always been ambitious, a trait she traces back to the time, when at Brooke Weston, she was given her first advanced grade which set the standard for what she wanted to achieve. 'Mr Witt was the first teacher to give me an advanced and once I had one I wanted more. Before that I wanted to get all extendeds and then when I got an advanced I wanted that and then was disappointed when I got an extended on my report. I always wanted to drive more and I'm always trying to achieve as much as I can.'
In the documentary Kerry told reporter, David Meredith: 'I've always done my best, in other schools it's cool to be lazy, but here it's better to do better, it's a race to get on, it's a race to be the best.'
After her success in business Kerry now wants to encourage others and she has recently been appointed Chair of Governors at Corby Business Academy. 'I want to tell these kids 'Look, you can do well'. I came from a council estate in Beanfield, I went to Beanfield Juniors, then came to Brooke Weston. I've not had any extra help in terms of getting my business funded, so it is achievable, it's having that vision to do it and I've always been a real supporter of Corby.'
Although the library, restaurant and music departments may have changed physically since filming, the ethos of Brooke Weston remains the same. Then, Principal Gareth Newman summed it up by saying: 'It demonstrates quite clearly that young people in this environment, in this sort of community, can exceed all the expectations by simply being given the right opportunity at the right time.'