A gallery has been named in honour of a long-serving Portslade teacher.
The Durham Gallery in the £12.7 million new building at the Portslade Aldridge Community Academy (PACA), in Chalky Road, Mile Oak, has been named after head of art Sharon Durham.
Head teacher Katie Scott said to an audience of colleagues, friends and family: “Too often in life we only remember to say the good things – the nice things – when people are leaving.
“Let me be clear, Sharon isn’t leaving!
“In a profession in which people give so much of themselves, often under great pressure, it is essential that we create public spaces to say thank you and reflect on the huge contributions to young people’s lives that teachers make.
“There has never been a more important time to create a positive narrative around teaching.
“People are leaving the profession in droves – many are leaving before they get to enjoy it, before they benefit from the warm haze you get in watching young people you have taught fly the nest with the skills and qualifications they need to be happy and successful people.
“The popular press and successive governments have created a sense that we are to blame for society’s ills and that individualism rather than collective endeavour is an ideal to be pursued.
“For these reasons, this space dedicated to Sharon is an important symbol of thanks to a profession that continues to put others before themselves and attempts to serve the greater good despite the continual challenges.
“The second reason for dedicating this gallery to Sharon is that she deserves a place to show off the amazing work that is produced by students under her guidance – to celebrate the quality of fine art, photography and textiles that achieve among the best results in the city year on year.”
Ms Scott thanked Ms Durham for being so supportive “when I suggest things like opening on a Saturday to become part of the Open House Festival amid GCSE and A-level moderation”.
She added: “Lastly, this gallery is dedicated to Sharon because she is a brilliant teacher. Brilliant teachers do not pursue their own glory but the success of their students. Such brilliance and commitment deserve recognition and thanks.”
Ms Durham, 62, spoke movingly about her family background, of Glaswegian poverty and the emphasis placed on education.
She also drew tears of laughter as she described how she turned a long-held desire for a gallery to show off her students’ work into a practical reality.
She pored over the plans for PACA’s £12.7 million new building to work out where a gallery might go and she asked whether there would be a Stannah stairlift so she could reach the art rooms!
She said jokingly that timing was key so she waited for Ms Scott to be really busy before pitching her idea for the gallery’s location. Ms Scott replied: “Sharon, just make it happen.”
Ms Durham said: “I got into action straight away before anyone stopped it.”
After 37 years as a teacher, 27 years at PACA – almost 20 as head of art – she now has her gallery.
True to form, she thanked caretakers Leon and Steve, art technician Janice Thurston and building manager Matthew Dawson for their help.
And she recalled a recent dinner conversation when – with echoes of the question from Monty Python’s Life of Brian film, “What have the Romans ever done for us?” – a friend said: “So apart from all the paperwork and change of heads and some naughty students, you have your dream job.”
And Ms Durham said that she did indeed have her dream job in her dream school working with her dream kids.