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MBE for special needs head teacher's dedication to students

The head teacher of Aurora Foxes Academy in Somerset, whose students make her smile every day, has been recognised with an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List for her dedication to ensuring that young people with learning disabilities are achieving their potential despite the pandemic, with every graduating student passing their hospitality exams ready for employment.

The headteacher of Aurora Foxes Academy in Somerset, whose students make her smile every day, has been recognised with an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List for her dedication to ensuring that young people with learning disabilities are achieving their potential despite the pandemic, with every graduating student passing their hospitality exams ready for employment.

Emma Cobley, 37, Principal of the specialist residential college where students gain nationally recognised hospitality qualifications and life skills, said: “Aurora Foxes’ students make me smile every working day. Despite the extra challenges they’ve had to deal with throughout the pandemic, they show resilience, talent and enthusiasm in everything they do.

“This award shines a light on their achievements as much as mine. I am privileged to lead a dedicated team at Aurora Foxes Academy which is giving students with learning disabilities the skills and opportunities that they deserve to become work and life ready.”

Emma rapidly realised at the beginning of the pandemic that the college would need to do things differently for the students’ sake. She devised ways to keep the students healthy, safe and engaged in learning. This year’s graduates all passed their exams and are work-ready.

Mark Costello, Chief Executive for The Aurora Group said: “Emma’s visionary and innovative leadership has had a hugely positive impact on the wellbeing and safety of students at Aurora Foxes Academy, two-thirds of whom are on the ‘extremely clinically vulnerable’ list. We are extremely proud of her and all the staff at Foxes in ensuring that our students, who could be disadvantaged during this challenging time, continue to achieve outstanding outcomes.

“The Covid pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on young people with learning disabilities. Yet Emma has tirelessly led a team to deliver a flexible and creative curriculum to the college’s 79 students. All of Aurora Foxes’ graduates in 2020 achieved 100% pass rate in nationally recognised qualifications, including NVQ level 1 in hospitality, setting them on a path towards a secure future.”

Emma joined Aurora Foxes Academy when she was 20 in 2004. She held a wide variety of teaching roles prior to being appointed Principal in November 2019. Under Emma’s leadership the college has adapted continually, ensuring its students continue to thrive during the pandemic. This has included creating ‘bubbles’ to keep staff and students safe, providing accessible hospitality-based work experience and developing a programme so students have continued close contact with their families.