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Alison Browning MBE

Varndean's own Alison Browning receives MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List

Alison Browning MBE

We are absolutely delighted to share the news that Alison Browning, our Challenge Co-Ordinator, has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Alison has received her award for services to young people at Varndean School, by enabling hundreds of them to complete the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award  and to be recognised for their charitable works, during a 30 year career of exceptional dedication and commitment to education.

Alison started teaching Maths in 1980 in Stratford, east London, and became Head of Maths at Varndean in 1991. By 2000 she had joined the Senior Leadership Team, having a variety of roles, including Exams Officer, Charity and Enrichment Lead and Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) lead for students post-16.

As IAG lead Alison built links across the city, developed a careers enrichment programme for year 10 students and subsequently took over as Chair of the Brighton and Hove IAG partnership with all schools and 6th form colleagues. The group worked to build the partnership when resources at the local authority were cut, they shared resources and reduced those Not in Education, Training or Employment (NEET) across Brighton and Hove. Her work with IAG also led to a new web resource for students BEACH which won an award.

Alison has also been the driving force behind a hugely successful Duke of Edinburgh’s Award programme at Varndean. She started running the programme in 2010, and expanded the numbers of participating students enormously. We now have regular cohorts of around 100 students taking part in the Bronze Award each year and around 25 taking the Silver Award. To date she has seen approximately 640 start their bronze and 100 on silver. Our competition rates run well above national levels and give opportunities and challenges to our young people that enable them to discover skills and strengths they might not otherwise have known they possessed.

But that’s just the statistics, Alison is much more than that. She has shown over and above commitment to supporting students to develop as holistic, well rounded characters and is renowned for her dedication and doggedness in enabling students to develop and mature through Varndean School’s entitlement programme. She is known in all Brighton and Hove secondary schools for the huge numbers of students she has, over many years, supported to complete both their Bronze and Silver Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) awards. When the LA told us they would no longer be able to support the DofE programme due to cost cutting, she was not daunted and instead began the process to make us the first licensed state school DofE centre in Brighton and Hove. When they withdrew the awards ceremony locally, she set about planning and delivering our own ceremony for the 73 students who had completed their bronze and silver awards this year and even invited the Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex, Peter Field, to officiate thereby giving the ceremony the recognition and kudos it deserved.

Virtually every lunch time she is surrounded by students collecting kit, asking about their route cards or signing off their volunteering or sporting activities. She spends the majority of her weekends during term time on the South Downs running expeditions, making our school one of the most successful in the SE (with 150 students signed up for their bronze award this year). Not content with her own school’s success (where entry onto the scheme is totally inclusive and we are proud to be one of the largest centres for DofE in the South East, with record numbers of students completing their Bronze and Silver Awards year on year), she hosted a lunch to share her good practice with schools in the area who struggle to get the same numbers of students through to completion.

One of the lasting effects that we see from the course is that many students decide to continue with their community work long after they have completed their DofE because they find it so rewarding. Their parents also tell us how many of their children have benefitted from Mrs Browning’s sheer determination to get them through and that they notice how it has made them more mature individuals.

In addition, many of her DofE students and others complete charity work inside and outside school, again supported by the tireless Mrs Browning. Through the Headteacher, William Deighan, the school became involved with The Starr Trust and developed the CHOCS programme which involves students selecting a charity for the group to fund raise from. She ran this for 5 years at Varndean raising money for CCHF, Shika, Afrikids and Kiya Survivors. Students has also raised money for The Marletts, Rockinghorse, RISE, HEAL, British Heart Foundation, Bethany's Wish, Daisy's Dream, and Action Aid.

We have 4 new charities this year: Village Schools Improvement Programme, Young Minds, WWF and The Connor Saunders Foundation. The programme allows students to understand how their money will be used and gives the students leadership and social enterprise opportunities. Since 2010 Mrs Browning has supported students to raise somewhere in the region of £35,000, with many students then earning  the Rotary Young Citizens Award for their work. Students from Varndean School receive Gold and Silver awards for their contributions to many aspects of school life and in the wider community. From running the basketball club, putting on major fundraising events for charity to helping with BrightonShed hosted at Varndean School. it is a wonderful way to acknowledge the volunteering, both as part of D of E and for those who volunteer outside this programme, and the contribution this makes to our community.

At the event one final special mention was made by the Lord Lieutenant on the awards evening, of the tireless energy and devotion of Alison Browning to so many aspects of school and extra-curricular life for Varndean students.June 21st 2016, saw 27 Varndean School students from Years 9, 10 and 11 receive their Rotary Young Citizens Award from Peter Field.

In addition, she also organises and coordinates one of the most extensive enrichment weeks of any state school. We have all our students simultaneously on 35 different programmes, with four overseas trips, four UK based residential trips and a whole range of sports, environmental, science, humanities art and cultural activities running in and around the local community. It takes a year to plan and organise and is one of the most enjoyable, rewarding, enriching learning experiences for students at Varndean School.

William Deighan, Headteacher, said:

We are absolutely delighted that Alison has been honoured with an MBE for her tireless efforts to support our young people. She really is exceptional and we wish her well in her retirement where she will be, no doubt, busier than ever. In every school all over the UK teachers and school staff are giving continually, supporting students in ways that cannot be measured. As a caring profession, we are committed to going that extra mile, instinctively, to nurturing talent and to build character and resilience in our young people, and we will do whatever it takes to help them achieve everything they can.

Alison retires at the end of the summer term, and what better end to her phenomenal teaching career than to have her contribution to young lives recognised in this way. We are hugely proud of her, and are honoured to have gained so much from her time with us. Her legacy will continue for many, many years as will the impact of her dedication through the lives of the thousands of young people she has challenged and inspired.

Congratulations Mrs B!



You can follow some of Alison’s amazing work on Twitter, using the hashtag #BrowningRocks