Coronation Street actor Melanie Hill and Look North’s Jeff Brown return to Monkwearmouth Academy to inspire the next generation

Monkwearmouth Academy alumni and Coronation street actor Melanie Hill joined Look North presenter Jeff Brown as they returned to their former school to unveil plaques in their honour which they hope will inspire the next generation of success stories.

Melanie and Jeff started at Monkwearmouth when it was still a grammar school and remember each other from their school days.

Melanie went on to become one the UK’s most famous faces having starred in much loved TV series including Waterloo Road, Coronation Street and Auf Wiedersehen Pet, while Jeff has had a successful broadcasting career and currently fronts the BBC Look North evening news.

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Jeff, who attended the school from 1972 until 1979, unveiled his plaque on the wall of the English corridor.

He said: “I’ve loved coming back. I loved school and it was where I found out what I wanted to do and so coming here today brings back loads of memories.

"The first person I remember from Sunderland being on TV was a guy called David Parfitt, who was a child actor and Sunderland’s only Oscar winner. It made me think someone from Sunderland can be on the TV and be successful.”

Melanie, who was in the school year below Jeff, unveiled her plaque outside the Performing Arts Department.

She said: “I can remember the sports hall where we had our exams. When I filmed Waterloo Road I was in a school for three years, so I think my memories of school get blurred with that.

Melanie Hill unveils her plaque.

"I loved my time at school and I wouldn’t have had the career I’ve had if it wasn’t for this place and my teachers who inspired me.

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"To have this plaque is a great honour. If it can inspire one child then its a great thing. There’s a wealth of talent comes from Sunderland I think this is a great idea and more schools should do it.”

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Former Sunderland City Councillor, Bob Francis, who also taught Physics at the school for seven years between 1966 and 1973, was also invited to unveil his plaque in the Science Department.

Coronation Street actor Melanie Hill shows her delight after unveiling her plaque.
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He said: “Today has brought back lots of happy memories. It’s all about relaying the message that you can attend this school and achieve things in life.”

The school has two further plaques to unveil, one for former pupil and MP, Baroness Hilary Armstrong, and another for former Lioness, Jill Scott, who has promised to unveil her plaque when she returns from the I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here jungle.

Headteacher Mike Grumett said: “The initiative is about inspiring young people to succeed and raising their aspirations. It would be great to think in 20 years time one of the children here today could return to the school to unveil a plaque of their own."

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Monkwearmouth Academy alumni Bob Francis, Melanie Hill, and Jeff Brown returned the school to unveil their plaques.

Meeting Jeff, Melanie and Bob certainly seems to have had the desired effect.

Beau Bruce, 14, said: “This definitely inspires you as it gives examples of how far people have gone after attending our school.”

Lily Cottrell, 15, said: “It was great to meet Melanie. I study Drama and today made me believe I can have a successful career as an actor.”

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Lucas Robinson, 14, added: “I’d like to become a pilot and I’d love to come back here one day and unveil my own plaque.”

Melanie Hill and Jeff Brown help the students out in a drumming lesson.
Jeff Brown unveiling his plaque.
Jeff Brown chatting with some of the students.
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Actor Melanie Hill's plaque.
Look North presenter Jeff Brown's plaque.
Former Sunderland City councillor, Bob Francis, unveils his plaque.