Mountain Ash Teacher Wins Pupils’ Award for Best Teacher

Religious Studies teacher David Church won the ‘Pupils’ Award for Best Teacher Award’ on Sunday evening following the virtual ceremony.

Over the last twenty-three years, Mr. Church has taught thousands of children and engaged pupils and staff in highly successful charity projects, most recently in partnership with twenty-one local charities, national charities and international charity projects, raising over £32,000 and enabling five pupils to win international scholarships to India, worth £17,500.

Mr David Church – Picture Credit: Brad Williams

Pauline Jarman, Chair of Governors at the school told CVN,

“I have known Dave Church since the first day he came to teach at MACS some 23 years ago. His caring attitude is reflected not only in his style of teaching but his encouragement to pupils to think of others less fortunate by fund raising for worthy causes, whilst, at the same time, pupils learn and gain a better understanding of the causes and effects of social deprivation. But he promotes positivity, despite the challenges. Children have won scholarships with Dave’s help, which enabled them to help build a school in Rajasthan in India.

“He also provides the opportunity for two sixth formers annually to visit Poland as the school’s Ambassadors to Auschwitz.

“I supported Dave’s nomination and spoke to the judges when they visited the school some months ago, as did other colleague Governors. We had every expectation that Dave would be the worthy winner of the award for his record would be hard to match, let alone beat. Well done Mr. Church.”

In June, year 11 pupil Alysa Neads received a global Diana Award for her social action work undertaken in Penrhiwceiber. This was thanks to her work undertaking the First Give programme, and Mr Church’s nomination of her. The Diana Award is ‘The most prestigious accolade that a young person aged 9 – 25 can receive for their social action or humanitarian work.’ Alysa was one of just one-hundred and eighty four global winners, one of eight Welsh winners and the youngest winner in Wales! Mr. Church ensured that her win was highly memorable, by secretly arranging a wonderful message of congratulations from none other than TV’s ‘Pride of Britain’ host and BBC Radio Wales broadcaster, Carol Vorderman.

Alysa had led a team of her peers, awarding £3,058 to the Lee Gardens Pool in Penrhiwceiber through the First Give programme, which encourages young people to tackle social issues in their communities, during curriculum time.

In summer term 2019, through their Religious Studies lessons with Mr. Church, Alysa Neads, Madison Cornish, Carys Simpson and Teigan Maund decided upon the Lee Gardens Pool as their chosen charity. They undertook ninety-seven hours of social action, raising the profile of the charity in the local and wider community. The pupils organised twelve charitable events in the local community, which raised a phenomenal £2,058 in just eight weeks! They also went on to win the school First Give final, gaining a further £1,000 for the Lee Gardens Pool through a First Give grant. In total, the pupils awarded an incredible £3,058 to the Lee Gardens Pool, which has made a huge difference to the charity, working tirelessly in a socio-economically deprived area.

Photograph (L-R): Mr. Church, Mr. Mead (Deputy Headteacher), Madison Cornish, Carys Simpson, Alysa Neads, Mrs. Mackie (former Assistant Headteacher) and Mr. Badma

The charity work that Mr. Church has undertaken with his pupils was even commended in person by royalty in March, 2018.

At the personal request of the Duke of Sussex, Kensington Palace extended an invite to Mr. Church to choose three pupils to meet Prince Harry & Meghan backstage, for a private five-minute conversation at WE Day UK, held at Wembley Arena, London.

Photograph: Mr. Church, MACS pupils Lowri Morgan, Nicole Walker, Conor Acteson, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex and Nicola Brentnall, CEO The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust
Credit: The Royal Photographer, Kensington Palace.

WE Day is a celebration of twelve thousand young people and their teachers from across the UK and their incredible efforts of social action. Tickets cannot be purchased for this event and pupils ‘earn’ their place at WE Day, by way of charitable invitation. It features a star-studded line-up of royalty, world leaders, motivational speakers and A-list celebrities. The event in 2018 included Julia Gillard (Former Prime Minister of Australia), Liam Payne (pop star), Nicole Scherzinger (pop star), Tom Walker (pop star) and Naomi Campbell (supermodel) amongst many others. The 2019 event included Lewis Hamilton (seven time formula one world champion), Leona Lewis (pop star), Jamie Oliver (chef and TV presenter) and Idris Elba (actor) amongst many others.

The WE movement work in partnership with First Give to give ticket allocation to schools deserving of tickets to the unique event. It is a private event and no tickets can be purchased to attend. Pupils ‘earn’ their ticket to WE Day, by undertaking social action in their local communities. Added to this, Mr Church, is the WE School Co-ordinator for MACS, and he worked tirelessly to secure extra tickets, to reward every single finalist of the MACS First Give competition and the school Senedd members.

After attending WE Day in 2017, the school were invited to apply for the ‘Virgin Atlantic – Be the Change’ scholarship programme. This is a chance for young people to win a once in a lifetime trip worth £3,500 to spend two and a half weeks in Rajasthan, India to help build a school for young children. Only thirty pupils from across the UK are selected every year.

In Easter 2018, three MACS pupils won a place on the scholarship programme, thanks to Mr. Church’s work with them. The first winner was Nicole Walker (who had previously won £1,000 for Women’s Aid Rhondda Cynon Taf, in the 2017 First Give programme). The second winner was Lowri Morgan who assists in running the Cynon Valley Pals, a charity for disabled children and their families. The third winner was Conor Acteson.

Photograph (L-R): Mr. Church, Craig Kielburger (Founder of WE Movement), Nicole Walker, Conor Acteson and Lowri Morgan at WE Day UK, 2018

In September 2018, the annual UK First Give Awards were held and hosted by Cynon Valley Senedd Member, Vikki Howells at the Senedd, in Cardiff Bay.

Cynon Valley Member of Senedd, Vikki Howells

MACS was nominated in the ‘School of the Year’ category and Nicole Walker, won the ‘Alumni of the Year’ award! Just prior to the awards, Mrs. Mackie (former Assistant Headteacher) applied successfully for a grant of £1,800 from the Queens Commonwealth Trust, in partnership with the WE Movement and Mr. Church, for a project in the school related to enhancing the teaching and learning experiences for pupils.

Mountain Ash Comprehensive School were invited to meet the royals for a number of reasons:

1. Sector-leading and award-winning pupil engagement with local charities through the First Give programme.

2. Being the first school ever in the UK to have three children (in the same year) to win the prestigious ‘Virgin Atlantic – Be the Change’ scholarship programme to India. The following year, Mr. Church enabled a further two pupils, Kia Kinsey and Charlotte Napier to also win these scholarships.

Photograph: Kia Kinsey and Charlotte Napier

3. For recently winning the £1,800 grant from the Queens Commonwealth Trust, to improve Teaching and Learning experiences for MACS pupils.

4. For being one of the most engaged schools in the UK WE Movement.

5. At personal request of the Duke of Sussex and Kensington Palace.

Just four schools from across the UK were invited to meet with royalty in this private meeting, backstage at Wembley Arena, London. MACS was the only Welsh school to receive this invitation. Unexpectedly, Mountain Ash Comprehensive was also featured in Hello Magazine on the 18th March 2018, covering the WE Day event.


By Brad Williams

Winner of 'Outstanding Contribution to New Media' at the Rhondda Cynon Taf Youth Engagement Awards 2019.

News presenter at GTFM radio station, Pontypridd.

Brad has interviewed:
- First Minister, Mark Drakeford MS
- Health Minister, Vaughan Gething MS
- Cynon Valley MS, Vikki Howells
- Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, Cllr Andrew Morgan
- RCT Council Cabinet Member for Heritage, Leisure & Environment, Cllr Ann Crimmings
- Author, Maria Grace
- Author, Communicator of Science & Local Tutor, Mark Brake
- ITV Wales News presenter, Andrea Byrne

Brad has been featured several times on WalesOnline and has been a guest on BBC Radio Wales, more recently joining presenter Wynne Evans on his show, talking all things Cynon Valley.

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