A GOOD school has an impact on individual pupils which they will remember all their life.

This year’s winner of the Secondary School of the Year award has not only affected thousands of youngsters, but has also been a catalyst for the transformation of Darwen.

Darwen Aldridge Community Academy opened in 2008 with just 735 students. It has now grown to become the borough’s largest school with more than 1,200 pupils.

Staff at the school believe its specialism of entrepreneurship has a positive impact on its students who are learning the characteristics of being successful leaders.

The judges felt the school had gone even further by driving an economic transformation in the area.

In the past two years the students have participated in 14,270 acts of community volunteering; 400 work placements, 35 start-up businesses and there have been record numbers of pupils going on to university. For 70 per cent of their students attending university they are the first in their family to do so.

Michelle Billington, assistant principal, entrepreneurship and community, said: “We researched the barriers to success that face our communities: lack of self confidence, lack of people precedent; parental passivity; perceived geography.

“Teaching the traits of entrepreneurs enables our students, parents and community to overcome barriers.

“Our students are socially responsible, demonstrate community pride and are highly employable.”

Judges in the category, sponsored by Just Teachers, felt the school had achieved its priorities of improving academic outcomes and changing Darwen’s economy.

Many pupils have started businesses in graphic design and illustration. All youngsters in the area, regardless of whether they are students, can access the academy’s ‘pods’ which offer basic office administration and advice.

They also have a ‘Young Chamber’ who fundraise to support the school’s various projects by holding community cinema nights and running a shop.

All this and much more - in less than seven years since the school opened its doors to its first intake of pupils.

During the judging, Mebz Bobat, head of service in education partnership services at Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, the main sponsor of the awards, said: “They’re breaking down barriers of young people’s expectations.

“They expect them to do well, expect them to be the first to go to university in their family. The pupils are fit for purpose for employment.”