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Students and facilities at William Brookes School in Much Wenlock, Shropshire

Coubertin School

Coubertin School Status

We have the privilege of being the only Coubertin School in Great Britain. We were awarded this prestigious status in 1999 when we were asked to become a founder member because of our strong links with the modern Olympics.

Pierre de Coubertin, who is heralded as the creator of the modern day Olympic Games, was inspired by a visit to Much Wenlock in 1890 as the guest of Dr William Penny Brookes. Coubertin was a French philosopher who believed in educating the whole body and mind. He had heard of the work of William Penny Brookes and, in particular, the Olympian Games that he organised in Much Wenlock each year. He decided to visit England and come and see Dr Brookes and between them they discussed plans to revive the ancient Olympic Games. Later Coubertin was to say, "...if the Olympic Games that modern Greece has not yet been able to revive still survive today, it is due not to a Greek but to Dr W P Brookes. It is he who inaugurated them 40 years ago and it is still he, now 82 years old but still alert and vigorous, who continues to organise and inspire them". Sadly, Dr Brookes died just before the first modern day Olympics in 1896 and therefore was unable to see his dream come true. Juan-Antonio Samaranch, while he was president of the International Olympic Committee, visited the grave of William Penny Brookes in Much Wenlock and said, "I have come to pay tribute and homage to Dr Brookes, who really was the founder of the Olympic Games."

The International Youth Forum

There is a network of Coubertin Schools around the world; it started in Europe and therefore there are many schools in this continent but recently there have been schools co-opted in Tunisia, Kenya, Cameroon and Australia, as well as Beijing. Many schools are brought into the Coubertin family because they are specialist sports schools.

As a Coubertin School we are invited every two years to an International Youth Forum, each held in a different country. The first was in Le Havre, where Coubertin lived for most of his life, the second here in Much Wenlock, and subsequently in Lausanne (the home of the IOC), Genova-Arenzano, Radstadt, Tábor and Olympia. The 2011 Forum was held in Beijing, 2013 in Lillehammer Norway and 2015 in Piestany, Slovakia. A small group of Sixth Form students are supported to attend and take part in workshops and discussions on different Olympic principles, social events that encourage interaction between the different countries and sporting activities. In 2022 Sixth Form Students will take part in the World Youth Forum in Munich, Germany. They also have to compete for a Coubertin Award, which has four elements:

  1. Community service (that has to be undertaken in advance)
  2. Olympic knowledge test
  3. Sports tests
  4. An arts presentation involving a performance to all participants during the Forum
  5. Olympic values

Students always leave the Forum having learnt a great deal about Olympism and its relevance to today’s world. Friendships begun during the Forum, with people from all over the world, have developed into on-going contact, visits and wide-ranging shared activities and interests.

Friendships begun during the Forum, with people from all over the world, have developed into on-going contact, visits and wide-ranging shared activities and interests.

In London 2012, one of the two official Olympic mascots was named Wenlock, firmly rooting community’s place in the Olympian traditions. Our students helped to launch the ‘2012 Community Games Toolkit’ in Much Wenlock, with Olympians Jonathan Edwards and David Moorcroft. This draws on the inspiration of Dr William Penny Brookes’ original concept for the Wenlock Olympian Games and we hope that our Olympic heritage here in Much Wenlock will now get the wider recognition it deserves and Dr William Penny Brookes will become a national hero!

Jonathan Edwards, Deputy Chair of LOCOG Nations and Regions and Vice President of the Wenlock Olympian Society says: "Seeing the heritage of the Much Wenlock Games being taken to the streets across the West Midlands through the Community Games is very exciting. This is what the 2012 Games are all about - inspiring people with the values of the Olympic and Paralympic Movements and encouraging greater sports participation. Given my involvement in both the 2012 Games preparations and the Wenlock Olympian Society, I am particularly proud to support the Community Games."

We were very proud that 3 of our students were selected to be Olympic torchbearers as it travelled around the country prior to the Games. The torch visited school on 30th May 2012 so that all our students were included in this special run-up to the 2012 Olympic Games, providing a very special memory for us.