Professor goes back to her roots to inspire pupils

Dorothy Newbury-Birch with assistant headteacher Sean Harris.
Dorothy Newbury-Birch with assistant headteacher Sean Harris.

A leading academic returned to her educational roots to inspire the latest generation of pupils.

Dorothy Newbury-Birch, professor of alcohol and public health research at the Health and Social Care Institute at Teesside University, talked to pupils at Norham High School, 35 years after she left the North Shields school at the age of 16.

Professor Newbury-Birch leads a team of researchers carrying out high profile research looking at interventions for risky drinking with young people and for those in the criminal justice system.

She attended Norham High School from 1976 until 1981 and is very proud of her background, growing up on the Meadowell Estate.

She said: “I know what it’s like to grow up wondering what I was going to do and how I was going to make ends meet and I didn’t want my children to go through that.

“It is difficult and there are many obstacles to getting on but we need to support our young adults to be able to make informed decisions about their future.”

David Baldwin, executive headteacher at Norham High, said: “We’re working hard at Norham High School to encourage every single one of our pupils to believe in themselves and aspire to be academic.

“We firmly believe every child at Norham can achieve. Dorothy Newbury-Birch has achieved a fantastic amount in her career since she left our school and we wanted our pupils to hear her story first hand and understand what can happen when you believe in yourself and work hard.”

Dorothy married at 18 after leaving school, but found herself as a single mum at 22. She was determined to go back into education and attended the then North Tyneside College to do an access course, later securing a 2:1 degree in Social Sciences at Sunderland University and completing a PhD at Newcastle University, specialising in alcohol and drug use by medical students.

She continued her career in academia at Newcastle University, lecturing in Criminology and Public Health Research. In 2014, she became Professor of Alcohol and Public Health Research at Teesside University’s Health and Social Care Institute.