Sunderland legend, former England Lioness and I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here Queen of the Jungle Jill Scott returns to old school to inspire next generation
Former England international and Queen of the Jungle Jill Scott was looking to inspire the next generation of lions and lionesses after returning to her old school to unveil a plaque in her honour.
The 36-year-old from Fulwell attended Monkwearmouth Academy between 1998 and 2003 before going on to have a hugely successful career winning 161 caps for England and representing her home town club before trophy laden spells at Everton and Manchester City.
After unveiling her plaque on the wall of the same sports hall in which she honed her football talent she joined pupils in the gym for a game of dodge ball and an impromptu display of her keepy-up skills.
Jill also enjoyed a tour of the school classrooms where she sat over 20 years ago before taking part in a question and answer session with pupils.
Jill said: “Coming back today it feels just like when I was here. I’m a bit taller walking through the doors but especially being back here in PE Department is great. This is where I spent most of my time in school.
"I used to always bring in a packed lunch so I had the time to take part in pretty much every sport going and it has been fantastic to be back. I’ve got so many great memories of being at this school, but playing football has to be the biggest.
"This is where I was shaped as a character and a person first foremost and I think that’s the most important thing for life. It’s great to then go on and have sporting or academic success but becoming a good person is the most important.”
After unveiling her plaque Jill added: “It’s amazing to see this plaque. Seeing it today, I’m like why is there a plaque of me in the school? It’s such a honour to be back here and to see this plaque. Hopefully the kids don’t start drawing on it now!”
Jill now joins other alumni including Coronation Street actor Melanie Hill, Look North presenter Jeff Brown and Former Sunderland City Councillor, Bob Francis, who unveiled their plaques back in November when the former lioness was filming I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here for ITV.
The initiative is designed to showcase the success stories of former pupils and to act as an inspiration to current and future cohorts.
Jill added: “Hopefully it will help inspire some of these kids. In my journey there were people who helped me and there are lessons that I’ve learnt along the way, so if you can pass that on and help by just one per cent then that’s important.
"It’s important to inspire before you expire.
"This is where I was shaped as a character and a person first foremost and I think that’s the most important thing for life. It’s great to then go on and have sporting or academic success, but becoming a good person is most important.
"I made so many good friends here and I have kept in touch with some of the teachers.”
One of those is Jill’s former PE teacher Judith O’leary who she greeted with a warm hug.
Speaking about her time teaching Jill, Judith said: “Jill absolutely loved sport and always had a great sense of humour. She was very lively in lessons and had a big personality.
"It’s unbelievable what Jill has achieved and I’ve been blown away by what she has done. But what you see is what you get with Jill. She comes back to visit the school and is always very humble and down-to-earth.”
Unveiling her plaque caps off a remarkable 12 months for Jill after she was part of the triumphant team of lionesses, coming on as sub in last summer’s 2-1 European Championship final win over Germany.
In November she was also crowned Queen of the Jungle in I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.
Jill, who retired after the Euros, said: “2022 has been a bit of a whirlwind to be honest. Having that win in the summer at Wembley in front of 90,000 people still all seems unbelievable. The chance then came up to go into the jungle and I was like, I’m not doing anything else and so I’ll head in. It has been a great year.”
Headteacher Mike Grumett hopes Jill and other alumni who’ve returned to the school to unveil their plaques can help foster an aspirational culture in which children from Monkwearmouth and Sunderland believe they “can really make it if they put their mind to it and show that belief”.
He added: “Jill really epitomises what Monkwearmouth students are about, that determination and that positive attitude which Jill has demonstrated throughout her career, winning 161 caps. She’s absolutely amazing. A legend, and it’s lovely to have her back at the school.
"Unveiling these plaques and welcoming people like Jill back to the school is about inspiring that next generation.”
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Jill’s visit certainly seems to have had the desired affect on the pupils.
Mia-Rose Wright, 11, who met Jill previously in one of her football coaching camps, said: “Jill remembered my name and asked me how my football was going. It’s really good to have Jill back in the school and impressive to think she was once a student here.”
Millie Cairns, 16, said: “My aspiration is to be a professional footballer one day and I’d love to emulate what Jill has done.”
Charlie Whitfield, 14, added: “Last time I saw Jill Scott was when I was watching the final of I’m a Celebrity and so it was quite a shock to see her in our school today. She has been really successful and so it’s great to see her come back to her old school.”