Serina Hartwell on Bingley Grammar School Investing in its Students and Celebrating its Achievements

Behind The Cold - SeenYear on year, raw talent continues to come through the doors. Young undeveloped minds pour into the school, looking to find their path in life…

Many of you may not be aware that author Serina Hartwell has a day job! When I’m not writing blogs/articles, poetry and novels, I run the library at Bingley Grammar School. Over the ten years that I have worked at the school, I’ve looked on as students have come through its doors. I’ve watched as they have gone out into the workplace, their many gifts nurtured through the hardworking staff who taught them and supported their daily education and emotional needs.

We have had some really talented people come through this school and today I want to look back at some of those who have gone on to shining careers and what work still goes on behind closed doors.

The Marmozets – I recall being assigned a new class to work with. Still quite new to the school, my job was to assist the class with their studies. One student stood out in particular, not because he was super talented or had any redeeming features that made him exceptional; he was a pale, petite boy who had the best imagination I’d come across in years, but his imagination was causing him to be completely distracted him from his learning. I soon learnt about him and other members of his family at the school, and realised that I was working in most of their lessons. As time went on, I got to know this great group of kids. They were optimistic and level-headed and just lovely children, but had left me with no lasting impression until one night when my own daughter had to choose her secondary school and was looking around on an open evening. I remember walking into the music block and seeing that they had set up a demonstration of students to show what the school was working on. It was this family. I hadn’t even realised that they were all musical. To me they were hard-working students, and then they started to play. I recall standing there gob-smacked. My students had an energy I’d never seen and were so purely talented that I stood in amazement, covered in goosebumps. Today you know my ex-students as the Marmozets. They see more and more success and my pride increases with every post about their music.

THE SHERATONS            The Sheratons – Today, I am currently working with yet another band alongside their studies – The Sheratons. These are another driven group of current Sixth Form students who show amazing talent and the motivation to succeed. By day they are Bingley Grammar School students, by night they are rock legends. I see great promise in this band. The spark that I saw in my former students – the Marmozets – I also see in them. There is a hunger to be true to their music and I wish them every success in the future. In the meantime, watching them grow as students and as musicians in the public eye is tremendously inspirational. It’s gratifying to know that they are getting it right.

Rebekah Tiler – European Weightlifting – If there was ever a sport that you wouldn’t expect a lady to take part in, it has to be weightlifting. Girls and weightlifting are not images that you would dream of putting together without some pointREBEKAH TILER of reference, but Rebekah Tiler left Bingley Grammar School to go on and become a triple bronze medal winner in the European Weightlifting Championships. Her Olympics selection looks promising. This is a girl who just keeps going from strength to strength. She always showed great determination at school and I will be watching her career closely. I wish her continued success in her sporting career and I am proud to have been around her while she was working to get there.

But what of the future? Is our work finished?

Year on year, raw talent continues to walk in through the doors. Young undeveloped minds pour into the school, looking to find their path in life from the doctors and nurses to the architects and master chefs; we have the most important job of guiding our students to develop their personal skills. It sounds easy, but children don’t know what they want to be when they get older until they are inspired and exposed to different things so they can realise their talents. One thing that I am really proud of is how Bingley Grammar School brings professionals and specialist people to the school and sees what they can do to expand their student’s school experience. We all think back to our school days and have a mixture of memories about those years. It’s the things that we did off timetable that stay with us – the extra-curricular activities that taught us just as much in an afternoon, because they were presented in a different way, with an interesting visitor they brought in to tell their story. These experiences are easily omitted due to budgetary constraints in the Education sector, but I’m glad that Bingley Grammar has been brave enough to continue to invest in their students.

Simply nip onto their Facebook or Twitter account to see the wonderful things going on throughout the academic year. Most schools would be glad to have a school ski trip every year. That would be their annual event and would tick a box, but Bingley take things a step further. Looking after their language students, future explorers, humanitarian students and future aid workers, they have a connection with a school in Nairobi – in Kenya, Africa. The relationship between the two schools is invaluable to both. The enrichment and inspiration to students at both schools is immeasurable.

Future horticulturalists, scientists and even astronauts are being inspired by the school’s science teachers, who have received their seeds from space. Inspired by their arrival, the greenhouse has had a make-over. I ask how many students are exposed to seeds that have spent time on the International Space Station with the British astronaut – Tim Peake of the European Space Agency.

Our budding medical students were taken to Bradford Royal Infirmary on a trip to check out their new wing and to meet with the staff there who gave them a feel for working in a hospital environment.

Three years ago, a group of teachers made it their business to bring together students and staff to experience the bard in a different light – for this they made a bid to work with the Royal Shakespeare Company. They had to compete against other schools and won. For the last three years, our drama students have been guided by the best. I see those students present an added confidence that wasn’t there before the Royal Shakespeare Company began to work with the school. These teachers have shown their students that there is a wide world of media and theatre waiting for them outside of Bingley Grammar and those big things are possible and should be worked towards with determination. I’m sure that their influence will last far beyond their students’ academic lives, and the various media industries will see Bingley Grammar School students in the future.

WORLD BOOK DAY WRITING CONTEST 2016 WEBSITE VERSION 2.1.1            To support our writers and editors, I asked a friend of mine if he would do me the biggest favour and he came through for me without hesitation. Darren Shan, the author of the Cirque du Freak series, The Demonata seriesThe Saga of Larten Crepsley series, Cirque Du Freak: The Manga series and his latest book, Zom-B Goddess (Zom-B, #12), which is part of the Zom-B series amongst many other works helped me put together a writing competition for the school. The competition winner’s pieces are available to view on Darren Shan’s Official Facebook page  and on my Serina Hartwell blog. The work to support reading and writing in school is always ongoing by our hard working English Department and our SEN Team who support our students with extra learning needs, but it is a personal pleasure to support Bingley Grammar School’s young authors and editors on an individual basis. Beginning to enter the Publishing and Editing industry can be difficult and guidance is hard to come by, so I guide young writers where I can. The school also bring in authors to assist students. Peter Murray visited recently and James Nash came in to concentrate on writing prose with some of our older students. Work is being done to fine tune students’ learning throughout the year.

The last thing I want to talk about is a venture that was started by one of the Assistant Deputy Heads – Mr Cook. Back in September 2015, he dreamt up the idea of planning a project that would tie into the new school ethos of BELONG, GROW, SUCCEED. He needed a project that could easily involve every student in the school and every member of staff. The project that he came up with was to carry out a Lip dub.BGS ON THE FIELD A Lip dub is a video that is filmed with everyone taking part lip dubbing to a music track. The school was turned into one big stage, everyone invited to join in. The involvement of the entire teaching faculty and student body had its own challenges to overcome, but required team participation, fast thinking and problem-solving skills to get this massive undertaking off the ground. He managed it and with great success. But that’s not where the story ends, because after the dust had settled, a Bingley Grammar School student, Will Humphreys sent the link off to CBBC, who liked what the school had done and wanted to do one of their own. See the full story on the school website and watch the short interview at the beginning of the video – CBBC Lip Dub.

To my fans that are still in school, perhaps you’re already reading The Hidden saga, which is based in a school setting, and you’re looking for inspiration. This novel began as an idea in someone’s mind; imagine what you can do if you put your mind to it and work together to get your idea up and running. Bingley Grammar has plenty of special events going on that you can take inspiration from. There are times when I wish I could go back to school. It’s not until you leave, and look back to reflect, that you realise how your school days were the best days of your life.


Serina Hartwell Author of Hidden–The Hidden Saga Book 1
Goodreads Author
Amazon –



Bingley Grammar School –

The Marmozets

The Sheratons –

Photography by The Sheratons

Rebekah Tiler – European Weightlifting –

Photography by Andrew Ward Law –

Nairobi –

The horticulturalists – Seeds from space –

The future medical students –

Working with the Royal Shakespeare Company –

Writing competition –

Visit from author Peter Murray – and

Visit from author James Nash –

Lip dub– Full Story –

Lip dub-

Being a new writer – Unlocking The Magic

Where the magic happens

Where the magic happens

If someone were to stop me in the street and ask me to tell them a story, I wouldn’t have a clue where to start, but sit me in front of a computer and leave me alone and the words just flow. Something inside me unlocks.    

The journey of becoming a writer is different for everyone. Some will know that they are destined to be writers from the beginning and will follow that path until they get there somehow, while others, like me, will stumble upon it quite by accident. There is no given track that a person must follow, in order to get into writing, because what works for one person may not necessarily work for the next. One commonality however, is sheer hard work.

After many years of trying countless new things, and hoping that one day I would stumble upon the one thing that would lead me to a better future, a future that would finally make me happy, leaving me feeling fulfilled, I finally found what I was looking for. I learned that I did have a talent buried deep within me, something that was so well hidden away, I had no idea I had it, until it burst to the surface. It was buried in a place even I struggled to find. I just needed to find the key. That key came in the strangest form, one which to this day, still leaves me wondering.

The key to unlocking everything that had lay dormant inside me for so long was a few simple words in the end. I had a conversation with my boss one day, when he passed the office, and I ran a couple of ideas by him for changes I wanted to make to the office. We had our conversation, which wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, and he finished by saying, “I want everything in here, out, so I can use it.” Pointing at his head.

At the time, I was focusing on my work and writing couldn’t have been further from my mind, but his words struck a chord. I thought no more about our conversation until a week later, when I borrowed my daughter’s laptop and went to start writing, at the bottom of the garden. His words echoed through me in a manner I wasn’t accustomed to. As they circled around and around in my mind, I began to think about what might really be up there, sitting around in my subconscious. As I stopped procrastinating and finally hit the keys, an idea of a scene came to mind for the opening chapter to Hidden. These words seemed to unlock something, and I was hit by a tidal wave of creativity, which flowed out of me. It was almost like I had been given permission to write. I recall saying aloud to myself, “he ought to be careful what he asks for – You never know what you will find up there.”

I am more grateful to my boss for these words than he will ever realise, because he unlocked a whole new future for me, without realising. I felt as I sat in front of the keyboard, with the strongest urge to start writing that at that very moment, I was in exactly the right place, at exactly the right time. I was meant to be a writer. All the dials had lined up and set me on a new course. This was the start of a brand new life for me and everything else that followed would be a contribution to that cause. I just had to survive the journey, oh, and learn to write.

You see, deciding to write for pleasure is one thing, but wanting to become a full time writer is another, and turning it into a reality, is quite a different ball game altogether. One of the problems I had always had, as a child was that I was a daydreamer. I don’t declare myself to be the smartest person on the planet, or anything particularly special, but I’m certainly not unintelligent by any means either. I didn’t do myself any favours however, when I allowed my creative brain to dominate, when I was a child.

The whole daydreaming thing has been a double edged sword for me throughout my life. You see, in order to write, you have to have great imagination, but having a great imagination tends to mean that you are at its mercy, because it tends to do its own thing. This is something that I have struggled with for years. I can recall many times, not only as a child, but as an adult as well, where my boss has asked me a question in the middle of a meeting and I’ve had no idea how to answer it, because boredom had crept in and taken over, leading me to drift off. To combat this, as an adult in a working environment, I had to learn to switch it off altogether. That’s probably why so much is bursting out of me now. I can’t even tell you where I go. It’s not like I even go off to some exotic place. When I’m back to concentrating, the daydream is instantly forgotten, like a real dream, but I have a feeling that none of it is really lost, because when I hit my keyboard, all manner of untold words stream across my page. A similar thing happens when I write. I have no idea where I go to do it, but I have to admit that it’s my favourite place. If someone were to stop me in the street and ask me to tell them a story, I wouldn’t have a clue where to start, but sit me in front of a computer and leave me alone and the words just flow. Something inside me unlocks.

When I first discovered I could do this, I felt a bit like Spiderman. I wanted to wear my new toy out. I wanted to see where the boundaries lay. To date, I still haven’t found them. Who knows what is possible? I keep trying new aspects of writing and so far, I’ve been able to do them, without any of it posing a challenge. I’ve always written from a business sense, so letters, emails, memos and all associated with formal and informal writing, has always been a natural thing for me, because it’s what I’ve always done to earn my bread and butter. Even in recent years, I’ve had to start writing reports for management and these have taken many forms. Lots of research has been done, in order to write the report in the first place, but I don’t love this. I merely do it because it is part of a process.

Recently, I found that I had to teach myself marketing. This has been a steep learning curve for me, because I’ve never been exposed to this kind of writing before. I mainly use blogging as a tool. By varying the length of the blog, I can pitch whatever it is that I am trying to convey to my followers, in a manner that is suitable to what I am promoting. I find it intriguing and feel that I have far from mastered this form yet, but I’m enjoying finding out how it works and love practicing new techniques. Blogs like this one feel more like a diary to me. They’re not a diary or journal, they are a means of telling you a little about Serina Hartwell and where she came from. I never anticipated these being as enjoyable as they have been. I thought that writing about myself would be the most boring thing in the world and might put people to sleep, but I’ve found that people have enjoyed these blogs the most. It surprising to me, because I consider myself ordinary and of no particular interest. It does act as a huge compliment when I receive positive feedback. One that I appreciate much more than I could ever convey.

My real love is writing from a creative stand point and by that, I mean both writing novels and poetry. I remember sitting in class in middle school and studying poetry. I recall looking around the class and watching my classmates struggle to write it, while I couldn’t wait to get on with it. I was always reasonable at writing them, but never considered the form before. The thing that appealed to me most was the challenge of writing a story, or conveying a set of emotions without using more than a handful of words. I always loved words and enjoyed finding out alternative words. Ironic when you consider that my biggest downfall has always been learning new languages. A gremlin that one day I hope to put to bed, but for now, one challenge at a time please.

I remember a fleeting thought that I could write poetry and then dismissing it as something that other people did, who was I to try? My mother’s voice interrupted, asking me how I would make any money at it. I always considered writing books and poems to be something that I wasn’t entitled to do. When I reflect upon this now, I think a lot of it was about my situation. I wasn’t particularly academically minded at the time, although this was something that I came to regret, because there was no reason why I couldn’t have become an academic, if I had only tried harder, I just always felt it wasn’t my place to think like that. I have to admit that it has taken an awful lot of rebelling and growing up to realise that the old, outdated ideas of others that surrounded me at the time, were merely holding me back. The view of the non-risk takers won at the time. That coupled with the fact that I didn’t put the effort in that I could have done, served as a self-fulfilling prophesy. It has taken many years and Hindsight to realise this and appreciate it. Only by taking a step back and doing lots of reflection, have I realised where I went wrong all those years ago and been able to start putting things right.

Today when I sit down and start typing out a new poem or chapter, I feel a sense of relief wash over me. A security in what I am doing and a sure indicator that I am finally on the right path. It’s like the rest of me has been waiting for the bit that can actually do the things that will make a difference in my life, to catch up. Now I’ve finally unlocked it, I can finally get on with the one thing I that I am supposed to be doing with my life. The thing that I have ironically, been looking at from the start. Like a new toy, I do intend to wear it out. I will always write, this is something that I instinctively know and I can’t wait to see where it will take me. What an adventure?

The next time you’re feeling negative about yourself and your place in life, or someone is putting you down, draw upon the inspiration I’m trying to share with you here. If you are good at something, but don’t try then you are right, you are never going to become whatever it is that you have found. You will not walk straight into a new profession or skill set either, because no one is good at what they do in the beginning, but stay realistic, keep hold of that idea and look at way that you can make it work. Perfect your trade, learn your skills and become the best through practice and hard work and never give up, even when times are hard. One final thing – Don’t put it off until tomorrow. Get right to it and begin your journey today. You’ll never look back.


Serina Hartwell – Author of The Hidden Saga


Thank you for taking the time out to read my blog. If you’ve enjoyed visiting my blog and want to keep up to date with my latest posts, follow my websites and don’t forget to tell a friend. Thank you for your support, it’s what keeps me writing. Let me take you on a journey…