'Trash Girl' Nadia Sparkes moves schools over bullying

Image source, Paula Sparkes
Image caption, Nadia Sparkes had a "brilliant" first day at Reepham High after being bullied at her previous school

A 13-year-old nicknamed "Trash Girl" by bullies for picking litter has changed schools after pupils assaulted her.

Nadia Sparkes won international praise and awards for gathering litter on her journey to and from school, and refused to let the taunts deter her.

Police got involved last term when she was shown a knife and punched at school, her mother said.

Her old school, Hellesdon High School near Norwich, said pupils' safety and welfare was of paramount importance.

Since 2017, Nadia has set off for school an hour early each day to pick up litter and put it in her bicycle basket.

She turned the "Trash Girl" slur on its head and embraced the nickname because it made her feel "like a superhero" - attracting more than 4,000 followers on social media.

Image source, Paula Sparkes
Image caption, Nadia Sparkes said the "Trash Girl" nickname made her feel "like a superhero"

But Paula Sparkes said her daughter was not championed at her school.

"The staff were not on her side to help and support her and we felt it was not appropriate for her to be there any more," she said.

She said police became involved last term when Nadia was allegedly shown a knife and shortly afterwards chased and punched by a pupil.

Norfolk Police confirmed it was called to an incident at the school and had referred a teenager to the Youth Offending Team, which was providing support.

"Officers also provided extra knife crime prevention presentations to all years groups," a spokeswoman added.

Image source, Creative Nation
Image caption, Nadia was depicted as a superhero in a cartoon by Creative Nation in January last year

In a separate incident, Nadia had to sit through a class covered in orange juice that had been thrown in her face, her mother said.

"Nadia picked up a [volunteering] award from the prime minister earlier this month - it's a shame when you think what the school could have achieved with this, and they haven't."

She met one of her new teachers, Reepham High School's Matt Willer, when the pair were both nominated for an eco hero award.

Mr Willer, who runs an allotment project, said: "I'd heard of the amazing work she was doing collecting rubbish and how, very sadly, she was being bullied because she was doing something different.

"This hit a nerve with me and we discussed how Nadia might like to come and have a look at Reepham High."

Image source, Paula Sparkes
Image caption, Nadia (far left) hopes to start a regular community litter-pick

Nadia had a "brilliant" start at Reepham after the Easter break and proudly wore her uniform made from recycled plastic bottles.

"She is literally wearing litter, it's like it's meant to be," said Mrs Sparkes.

Nadia's new school is about 11 miles from her home but she hopes to continue litter-picking en route to the bus stop.

Mr Willer said the teenager would be a "huge asset" to the allotment project.

"All the volunteers look forward to working with her as we all set a sound example about respecting the environment and living more sustainably."

Image source, RHS/Jason Bye
Image caption, Matt Willer, pictured at the school allotment, said Nadia would be a huge asset to Reepham High

Hellesdon principal Tom Rolfe said the school did not tolerate bullying and would not actively discourage a pupil from pursuing their passion.

"We promote an ethos that reflects high moral standards, a culture of social responsibility and fosters a safe learning environment for all students," he added.

"All students are respected and their individuality is valued."

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