Standing in Sunderland Football Club's Stadium of Light this year alongside top pupils from mainstream schools were two students from the city's Tudor Grove pupil referral unit. Stephen Day, 14, and Jake Guiheen, 11, were nominated by the unit and selected jointly by local education authority advisers and Sunderland FC to receive two of the club's annual Shining Light awards.
Both awards were for citizenship, and were open to pupils throughout Sunderland, Durham and South Tyneside. Stephen, now returned to mainstream school after four months at the 36-pupil unit, won his for improved behaviour and attendance.
Jake, pictured in the unit's new wildlife garden, won his for being the most improved pupil: since arriving in January his attendance has improved from 50 per cent to 92 per cent; he has played for Tudor Grove in a local schools' five-a-side football tournament - his first ever time playing in a representative team; he has worked in the wildlife garden; and he has helped set up a bird watching club.
"When Jake came to us he'd had lots of problems in mainstream school," says key stage 2 teacher Lisa Winship. "At first we were seeing occasional little bits of bad behaviour, but his whole attitude to school has really impressed us. I think the small group setting has been the major factor for him.
"He went to the Stadium of Light to get his award, and he also got tickets to a Sunderland match. He's a boy of few words but he obviously thought it was great."