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Happy February!

Posted 22/2/2021

Hello everyone and happy February! I feel like January has simultaneously lasted forever and vanished into nothing – it’s always an odd transitional post-Christmas month for me but this year made even more strange/challenging by lockdown 3.0. I hope everybody is doing OK? I think after the first lockdown we all breathed a big sigh of relief that we had managed to get through it and we felt things were slowly starting to return to normal. I can remember saying “I don’t think I’d survive another one!” yet here we are… surviving!

 I feel perhaps this time around a lot of people are just fed up. We feel like seasoned ‘lockdowners’. We’re not as excited at the prospect of daily walks in the fresh air, at-home workouts and logging into work laptops still in our PJs. We want to be free! We want some normality! We WANT to go into the office! This time it’s really hard for many of us to find positivity and I think it’s important at this stage to recognise that now more than ever we need to be reaching out to those who might be struggling.

Which brings me nicely to the Five Ways to Wellbeing – the first of which is CONNECT. Make sure you are connecting with family and friends – whether that’s a quick text to check in with someone you might have had radio silence from for a few days to a full-blown Friday night zoom quiz with the entire family (yes I know we’re all kind of over those now as well!) It’s easy to slip into isolation and forget to reach out to others when we’re stuck at home and feeling a bit down. I struggle with this as a naturally introverted person. Taking that first step to connect can sometimes be hard but I know it makes me feel better as soon as I talk to somebody.

The others Ways to Wellbeing are: Be Active, Take Notice, Learn and Give. More info on these can be found here: https://www.mind.org.uk/workplace/mental-health-at-work/taking-care-of-yourself/five-ways-to-wellbeing/

Finding time to put these into place and focus on your wellbeing is so important and can be so valuable. The Five Ways to Wellbeing is therefore the basis of a 5 week course of sessions for both Primary and Secondary age children which Nickie and I will deliver live over Microsoft Teams. This will be accessible for children either in school or at home and at the end of the course we hope the children will leave with the knowledge and skills to help them in implementing the Five Ways to Wellbeing in their everyday lives.

We also have ready and available two Anxiety Workshops for use in schools. ‘Max Can’t Sleep’ is aimed at KS1 and ‘Anxiety with Caveman Bob’ is aimed at KS2 children. Please contact either myself or Nickie if you would like the information for either workshop.

On our Service Children’s Champion YouTube Channel Nickie and I have uploaded ourselves reading a few stories which we would usually use within our 1:1 sessions. These include stories about deployment such as ‘My Daddy’s Going Away’ and ‘Lily Hates Goodbyes’, and books on dealing with anxiety and emotions such as ‘The Panicosaurus’ and ‘The Huge Bag of Worries’. Nickie has uploaded a gorgeous reading of ‘Coronavirus: A Book for Children’ illustrated by Axel Scheffler which is fantastic for explaining the current pandemic to younger children.

The below information was passed on to us by the SCiP Alliance to share with our Armed Forces community, particularly families:

‘Real Stories’ is a new online gallery representing the lives of Armed Forces families. Hosted by the King’s Centre for Military Health Research (KCMHR), this gallery aims to reflect military families today to raise awareness and understanding among the public of the Armed Forces community.

The gallery hopes to be educational and informative, opening up discussion around the ways in which the Armed Forces community is viewed away from some of the more negative stories seen in the media and wider society. As well as this, a selection of Real Stories images will be on permanent display at the ADVANCE office at the Ministry of Defence’s new Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre at Stanford Hall in Loughborough and will be used at KCMHR events throughout the year to showcase our Armed Forces community.

To make sure the gallery represents a wide selection of Armed Forces families, we need your help. We are now open to submissions of digital images of family life from anyone connected to the military. This includes anybody who is, or was in Service, as well as spouses, partners, children, parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts & uncles and wider family members (e.g. cousins) - all are welcome!! Along with submitting a picture, there’s an opportunity to include a written contribution to go alongside about what the image represents or means to you, which will be presented in the gallery and in our Reflections booklet at the end of the project. Comments can remain anonymous if you wish. Children under 18 will need permission from a parent or guardian.

More details, as well as the online gallery, can be found here at https://kcmhr.org/real-stories.

The SCiP Alliance are also offering free virtual training for schools on their brilliant Thriving Lives Toolkit. You can register your place here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/scip-alliance-virtual-training-conference-for-schools-lancashire-and-nw-tickets-132817022289

We would also like to share the below information from the Never Such Innocence project for the interest of schools:

Teachers! Never Such Innocence is here for you and your students during this time of remote learning! They have poetry, art, speech and song writing practitioners at the ready to hold a live workshop for your class. The workshops are extremely flexible with timing and they are able to organise them quite quickly to suit the needs of your classroom. They target the content for the workshop on your current curriculum, on a theme for their competition, The Unheard Voices of Conflict: Stories from Around the World or could be held specifically with service children as part of their Voices of Armed Forces Children Project. To learn more or to schedule a workshop, please email Katie at ks@neversuchinnocence.com

The SFSG meeting will take place this month on Tuesday 23rd Feb at 9.30. If you would like to be involved in this, please let us know.

And finally, just a little note to express our sadness about the passing of Captain Sir Tom Moore. As a young man he fought bravely for his country, and at the age of 100 he did the same again in the most amazing way that he could – raising money to support the NHS and help in battling this horrible pandemic. His legacy will live on.

Jess

 

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Happy New Year!

Posted 22/2/2021

Hello & Happy New Year!  I hope you found some time over the past couple of weeks to rest, relax and clear your head - we’re nearly there!  2021 starts filled with hope; vaccines are on the way and we’re all in a giant queue to receive our two magical doses.  Until then we just need to keep going and:

  • keep wearing our masks;
  • stay a safe distance from other people (more difficult than you would think for touchy-feely people like me!); 
  • wash our hands;
  • not panic buy;
  • not frighten our children;
  • check on vulnerable friends and family;
  • chat away loneliness for those isolating;
  • shop for neighbours we barely knew before this began;
  • buy local so our economy doesn’t crash;
  • applaud the NHS;
  • use 111, not 999;
  • not fall ill (or fall off a skateboard on Christmas Day…!) and put precious resources under strain;
  • keep schools open but don’t allow children to play too close or hug their friends;
  • prepare Y11 & Y13 for exams which are scary at the best of times;
  • prepare Y6 for a transition to a school they haven’t had a chance to visit;
  • test for the virus;
  • socialise with friends we can’t physically be with;
  • keep working;
  • meet people by Zoom and still feel like you’re doing a good job;
  • find new and innovative ways to do your job and remind people ‘I’M HERE!’

– the list of things we need to do is endless and terrifying.  The consequences of forgetting something on the list feel life defining and yet, despite all that I’m going to add another item to your list – sorry!

  • Take time for you

Take time to breathe and get your thoughts in order.  On aeroplanes (remember those?!) we’re told to apply the oxygen mask to ourselves before we try to help others.  That applies now.  Put your oxygen mask on.  For me that’s a quiet cup of tea or a run, for you it might be something else.  Our Anxiety Workshops are most definitely written for children but that doesn’t mean the lessons in them aren’t useful to adults.  We show children how to slow their breathing and calm their heart rates with the full stop stretch.  Cloud blowing teaches them to empty anxious, intrusive thoughts from their minds so they feel in control again.  The elephant stretch releases tension being held in the body and regulates breathing and heart rate.  We suggest that, at the end of each day, children think of three things that have made them smile that day.  This changes mindset and resets our perspective to a more positive one.  I have recently taken my own advice and started doing this, it is lovely to go to bed feeling positive about the day that has just passed and to have the opportunity to empty my brain before I go to sleep.

We also ask children to share their worries and anxieties so that they don’t grow into fire breathing dragons they can’t control – you could do that too!  I can’t tell you what will be most useful for your anxious, harried mind but I can tell you that finding your thing, your quiet cup of tea, will help you this year.  It will help you feel more in control and more able to cope.  You can do this!

In November 2020, the Children’s Commissioner and OFSTED released reports highlighting the adverse impact that the pandemic is having on the mental wellbeing of children and young people.  The ‘things to do’ list for children is just as long as ours is and includes worrying about their parents and wider families.  Additionally, many Service children will have had parents who worked over the Christmas period delivering Covid-19 tests and you may have noticed that it has been suggested that the Army will be able to help schools in the coming months.  These additional pressures may affect the emotional wellbeing of our Service children.  Our Anxiety Workshops are available online; please get in touch if you are interested in using them at your school.  Last term Jess and I presented the Wellbeing Warriors 5 week courses in schools, the feedback from the children has been lovely and we hope they have had a positive impact.  Jess and I both have the capacity to present the Wellbeing Warriors in schools – as soon as you’re ready to have us back!

Jess has recorded some of her favourite stories which we hope will be useful for sharing in your military kids clubs or for a short PSHCE lesson.  For KS1 & KS2 Jess has read Lily Hates Goodbyes and Night Catch which look at deployment and separation, the different emotions children may feel and ways to cope with those emotions.  For KS2 & secondary school aged children Jess has read quotes from the gorgeous The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse book by Charlie Mackesy.  The beautiful art and accompanying words are relatable and describe how many of us may be feeling right now.  Jess’s recordings will be available by the end of this week on our YouTube channel: Service Children’s Champion.

In the meantime keep going!  I can’t wait to see you and give you a pat on the arm – or a big hug!

 

Happy New Year!

Nickie

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December Update

Posted 3/12/2020

Hello everyone and Happy December! I’m not quite sure how we got here so quickly?! And I don’t know about everyone else, but for my family this year the usual ‘Christmas rules’ are totally out the window – we bought a box of mince pies at the start of November, Christmas decorations have been up for weeks and Christmas songs have been blasting out continuously! We are so ready to get into the festive spirit this year.

As the end of the year rolls around, I imagine most of us are ready to write off 2020 and look forward to hopefully a better year in 2021. As much as this year has been difficult and unpleasant in so many ways, it has really made me re-evaluate my priorities in life and for that, 2020, I am grateful. And although I cannot deny I am fiercely looking forward to a time when we can visit family members in high-risk areas who we haven’t seen for months, and I can finally give my little niece a big squeeze again, I have been trying hard to focus on the few positives that have emerged from this year.

During lockdown, my kids were given so much time to ‘just be kids’ – exploring outdoors, being in nature, going for long walks and enjoying lots of time to play and be free! I have amazed myself at the amount of work I can produce in a two hour nap time(!) and I think we have all proven that working from home can be effective – something that I hope will positively impact the military in the future and allow Serving personnel more time at home with their families. I’m so thankful for all the extra time I spent with my family, though I may not have been feeling too happy at the time about juggling working, home-schooling and twin-wrangling…! But in spite of the challenges, this year has definitely brought us all closer together and has also given me a lot of appreciation for this beautiful countryside we live in – we are so lucky in so many ways.

Moving on to a little update of what we have been up to this past month – Nickie and I have been continuing our 1:1 support in a few schools which we are very much enjoying, though we are really missing some of our ‘regulars’ and hope to be with you again soon! We have also successfully begun our Wellbeing Warriors groups in some schools – the groups are great fun, they get children talking about their emotions, being kind to ourselves and to others and unique families – especially military families!

We have also been working hard making our Anxiety Workshops available online. We have now completed Anxiety Workshops for KS1 and KS2 that we are happy to announce are now available for schools to access!

We are so pleased that so many of you have already requested the links and resources for the available workshops and we look forward to receiving feedback. Please drop me or Nickie an email if your school is interested in the KS1/KS2 Anxiety Workshops.

The Remembrance Service for Service Children was very different this year with the usual big gathering in Ripon Cathedral not able to go ahead. Despite this minor hiccup(!) we felt it was important to continue this event by making it virtual!

A main part of our role as Service Children’s Champions is to raise awareness of Service children in our county; to understand their unique and often challenging lifestyle but also to celebrate the important work their parents or guardians do for our country. The annual Remembrance Service for Service children is a way to commemorate the fallen heroes of the War and at the same time show appreciation and be proud of their own ‘heroes’ at home!

I am absolutely delighted to report we have had record numbers of visitors to our website this past month, over 10,000 people engaged with our Remembrance service posts on Facebook and as of today we have 678 views of the entire Remembrance service video on our YouTube channel. Amazing!

This year’s theme for the Remembrance service was ‘Heroes’ which we felt was apt in not only commemorating the heroes of the War but also showing our appreciation for the heroes of this past year – the keyworkers. I am so proud of everybody who contributed and made this year’s service possible. We are so grateful to our wonderful VIPs who took the time to record messages for the Service children – your continued support is so appreciated. The children who contributed poems, prayers, hymns, music and artwork were absolutely fabulous and I don’t know one person who watched the entire service without getting at least a little bit of a misty eye! Thank you so much to everybody involved and to everybody who watched the Service and gave us such lovely feedback.

We would love it if you could please fill in this quick survey for us about the Remembrance Service. Because our roles are funded year on year by grants, it is really important we evidence the impact that our work has on supporting Service children in North Yorkshire and we really appreciate any feedback you can give us.

We have been asked by the ‘Wake Up North Yorkshire’ campaign to share this message with you. The campaign is continuing to encourage North Yorkshire residents to develop a healthy relationship with alcohol and prioritise their health. Research shows that over 45% of North Yorkshire residents increased their alcohol intake during lockdown, and parents were particularly affected. The campaign has asked:

 North Yorkshire parents we want to hear from you. Have you changed your drinking habits because of lockdown? Or do you plan on drinking less alcohol after lockdown? Fill out this short survey and you could be selected to win a £50 voucher https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/NYCCrecruitment/

Finally, the festive season is upon us and many kids are excited for the Christmas hols but for some Service children Nickie and I have seen recently, this year it is tinged with sadness as they have mum or dad away on a deployment over Christmas. BFBS Catterick is asking for Service children with parents away over Christmas to send in their videoed Christmas messages – an absolutely gorgeous scheme and something I’m sure children and parents alike will really enjoy the deadline for receiving these messages is Sunday 13th December.  Information is available here.

 

A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all!

Jess

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                    

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November - more interesting times!

Posted 2/11/2020

Hello!  In April I said ‘May you live in interesting times’ – I didn’t honestly think we’d still be in them 7 months later!  I feel a little bit guilty…!

SCiP launched their Thriving Lives Toolkit last month, the evidence-based toolkit explains the seven principles of effective support for Service children in schools and provides self-reflection questions linked to further guidance, case studies and resources. They are hosting a free, two-part conference in partnership with NYCC’s School Improvement Service, delegates will explore the principles, reflect on their practice and plan action back in school.

Session 1: Wednesday 18th November, 9am – 12pm - Understanding Service children’s lives and how the Alliance helps; How schools can use the Thriving Lives Toolkit to help Service children thrive; the Toolkit’s associated professional development materials.    

Session 2:  Tuesday 24th November, 9am 12pm - Who can help schools help Service children thrive, and how – an overview of supporting organisations and four partnership workshops to choose from.

To book free places: https://www.scipalliance.org/events/scip-alliance-thriving-lives-conference-yorkshire-north-east-nov-2020

This month our Festival of Friends area groups have network meetings booked in to discuss how they will continue to work on their projects.  The Festival of Friends CPD included a preview of the Thriving Lives Toolkit, the feedback was that the toolkit is both useful and informative.

Jess and I are concerned that children and young people may be more impacted by this second lockdown because of the anxiety their parents / carers and wider families may be feeling and the general uncertainty in the world right now.   So we have been recording our anxiety workshops so they can be used in classrooms – it’s not as easy as it sounds!  The KS2 workshop – Anxiety with Caveman Bob - is ready to go, the KS1 workshop – Max Can’t Sleep - will be ready by the end of this week and after that we’re planning to work on the KS3 workshop. If you’re interested in the workshops please let us know and we can send you teacher information packs and the link to the workshop.   Nickie.Young@northyorks.gov.uk or Jessica.Greenhalgh@northyorks.gov.uk

Jess presented our new Wellbeing Warriors 5 week course at two schools last term and the feedback has been lovely.  We’re both booked and looking forward to presenting Wellbeing Warriors at schools this term but there’s always space for more if you’re interested!

November is the month of Remembrance, Jess and I are so sad that we aren’t meeting with you all in the Cathedral this week but we are very excited about, and proud of, the Virtual Service to Remember which Jess has put together with contributions from schools, the Army, the RAF, local ViPs and two very lovely WWII Veterans.    We are asking that the Service is viewed on Friday 6th November – when we should have been in the Cathedral – and are hoping we can reach a record audience this year!  We’d be very grateful for photos of people taking part in the Service and to hear any feedback about it.  If you would like us to email you the Order of Service and the link to watch the Service please let us know.  In addition to inviting all schools in North Yorkshire, we have also invited local care home residents to ‘join us’ for the Service.  If there is anyone else you think we should invite please let us know.

Finally, the next SFSG meeting will be on 17th November 2020.  If you would like to attend and haven’t had an invite please let me know!

I feel like a lot of this blog has been ‘let me know’ or ‘get in touch’ – perhaps I should just have said ‘don’t forget we’re here’! 

Hope you have a lovely November!

Nickie

 

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Happy October!

Posted 15/10/2020

I hope everyone is keeping well and enjoying the change of the seasons as we’ve moved into Autumn? It’s by far my favourite time of year. I love the cosiness, the boots-and-jumpers weather, the early nights, the run up to Christmas, the time spent with family… and though Halloween/Bonfire Night/Christmas might not be quite the same as previous years we are determined to make it as special as we can for the kids with our own celebrations at home!

Nickie and I have been busy this past month with re-evaluating the support we can provide to Service children in schools. While a few schools have welcomed us back, understandably most schools have taken the stance that they are not accepting visitors. We are working on making our Anxiety Workshops and Wellbeing Warriors sessions into online resources, which we will be able to send out to any schools who put in a request to us. We are also working on recording ourselves reading some of our favourite books about separation, anxiety and emotions, which we will upload to our YouTube channel.

The Wellbeing Warriors groups have been going brilliantly so far with the children wonderfully engaged as we talked through our emotions and discussed how we can find ways to manage those horrid negative emotions, which sometimes creep up on us! The Wellbeing Warriors sessions also looks at the unique nature of Service families, how to be a good friend, and how to be kind to yourself and others around you.

The first SFSG meeting of the academic year (via Skype!) went really well, with representatives from schools, NYCC and the military sharing any new information which may affect our Service families such as upcoming regiment moves, or information which may help support our Service families, such as the Andrew Selous report “Living in Their Shoes” full report linked here:  

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/895236/Living_in_our_shoes_Full_Report__1__embargoed_30_June.pdf

And summary report for those who may not have time to read 268 pages(!): https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/895237/Living_in_our_shoes__Summary__1__embargoed_30_June.pdf

Thank you so much to Angela Campbell who did a fabulous job chairing the meeting.

The next SFSG will be held in November. Please do let us know if you would like to be involved!

The Festival of Friends project is back up and running with our first Skype meeting! The Area Service Pupil Coordinators (ASPCs) received some more CPD, which they will then feedback to the Armed Forces Champions (AFCs) in their area, who will then cascade into their schools. The CPD this session focussed on deployment and separation. The ASPCs are looking to arrange their next meeting with their AFCs to take place in November.

You may have heard of “Bomb Happy”, a very powerful and emotional production by Everwitch Theatre and the York Normandy Veterans. It features the real stories of Ken Smith, Ken Cooke, Dennis Haydock, Albert Barritt and George Meredith; all veterans who participated in D-Day – one of the most important military operations of the Second World War.

The theatre has been working on producing an audio play to share with the community, which will be released on Everwitch theatre’s YouTube channel on Friday 6th November at 12pm in three parts to commemorate 75 years since VE Day. The trailer for the audio play is linked here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lTI1vCjSw0

The play is suitable for ages 12 and above.

And finally – the Virtual Service to Remember for Service children. It has been an extremely busy few months pulling this all together and I am so grateful to all who have contributed! There have been so many times I have clicked “play” on a video I’ve been sent and instantly teared up. There are some absolutely gorgeous and emotional contributions and I’m sure you will all love it. It will never be the same as having us all together in the beautiful Ripon Cathedral and I apologise in advance for the amateur video editing(!), but it’s all about the content, and Nickie and I are hoping to reach as many schools and members of the community in North Yorkshire as we can.

As well as schools, the military and the local authority we are looking to send the link to the virtual service to the Royal British Legion, York Normandy Veterans, nursing homes across North Yorkshire and local media. If you have any ideas of any other groups or organisations who may be interested in receiving the link, please let me know!

We will send an email out with the finished version and the Order of Service but I hope you all enjoy the Virtual Remembrance Service next month and please remember to send Nickie and I lots of pictures of your schools or community watching and taking part in the service!

Jess

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Happy September!

Posted 10/9/2020

Happy September!  I hope you’re all well and managed to have some fun over the summer?  My husband and I took the children to Devon for a few gorgeous days with some friends – the sun shone, the children swam in the sea and we all ate & drank far too much, it was blissful and a nice reminder that the world is still there we just have to behave a little differently in it!

In the last week of the school summer holidays Jess and I received the news that the National Lottery has agreed to fund our posts from October for 6 months.  Which was really good news because we’d already started working on our plans for this academic year!

The last few months have been difficult for us all, our routines have been disrupted, we have had to change the way we live our lives and interact with our extended families.  Our children and young people have had to work through it without the freedom to see their friends or   partake in their sporting and extra-curricular activities.  Their education has been disrupted and the world keeps on shifting around them.  After a few weeks of relative easing it would seem that lockdown measures are going to be tightened again, I personally find it really difficult to hear people laying the blame for the reintroduction of tighter measures at the door of young people who have had so much to contend with this year and, I believe, will feel the impact of the pandemic for years to come.  In light of that I want to take this opportunity to remind you that the Anxiety Workshops are still available, they have been updated to reflect new research and the current pandemic which is raising all our anxiety levels!  The Anxiety Workshops aim to help children and young people understand what anxiety is, why our bodies are affected by it and how we can overcome it.  They also give children and young people the chance to voice their anxieties without having to worry they’re going to upset or offend anyone.  Please let us know if you would like us to present Anxiety Workshops at your school. 

Jess and I finished the summer term by writing a new programme for primary school children – ‘Wellbeing Warriors’ is a 5week programme for small groups of Service children which aims to help them recognise and understand their emotions, discuss their Service families, talk about friendship and transition, look at self-esteem, kindness and developing a positive mindset.  Wellbeing Warriors was great fun to write and we’re really looking forward to being able to present this in schools.  If you would like further information or to book a Wellbeing Warriors course for your school please get in touch.

We have also been working on our annual Service to Remember, unfortunately it won’t be at Ripon Cathedral this year but we’re quite excited about having the Service online and available to more schools.  Jess has been working closely with the clergy at Ripon Cathedral, who have agreed to record the service and we are hoping for a lot of contributions from schools and VIP’s – Jess will be sending multiple emails over the next few days asking for your support.  All contributions will need to be with us by the end of this month please! 

The theme for the Service to Remember artwork this year is ‘Heroes’, this week Jess and I were emailed the pdf for a gorgeous book called ‘North Yorkshire’s Unsung Heroes – Their Stories’ which was collated by Dr Tracy Craggs on behalf of the Ex-Forces Support Network project.  The book has some inspiring stories about local heroes including Mr John Jeffries, who many of you will have met at the Service to Remember at Ripon Cathedral and who sadly died on 30th August 2020.  The stories might inspire your children to think about who their heroes are before they create their artwork.  The pdf of the book is available here: https://communityfirstyorkshire.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/200805-North-Yorkshires-Unsung-Heroes.pdf

This month we should have been celebrating the completion of the Festival of Friends project but unfortunately, due to the lockdown measures, the project was put on hold.  Fortunately the Armed Forces Covenant Trust agreed to extend the project until March 2021 so we will be full steam ahead this term!  Hopefully schools will be working on their projects, the first Festival of Friends Area Coordinators meeting is set to take place later this month with the area meetings taking place soon after that.  I’m looking forward to hearing how the projects are progressing even in the face of the Coronavirus!

The first SFSG of this academic year is on Tuesday the 29th of September, we will be meeting by Skype which will be an interesting experience!  If you would like to be added to the SFSG distribution list please let me know.

I hope your return to work and school hasn’t been too stressful!  Look forward to seeing you all soon!

 

Nickie

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July!

Posted 10/7/2020

Hello all – happy July from the final blog of this academic year. And a very strange year it has been! Here’s hoping that our next blog in the new term will see us back in schools – we have really missed the lovely Service children that we work with! A Skype or phone call will never be the same!

This blog marks the end of my first year as Service Pupils’ Champion. And actually it will be both mine and Nickie’s LAST year as Service Pupils’ Champions as we have made the decision, more in line with the national terminology, to change our job title to “Service Children’s Champion”. Still a bit of a mouthful I’m afraid!! But it definitely encompasses more of what we do – we are here to support families with Service children of all ages, not just those who attend school. The SCiP Alliance and SCISS define a Service Child as: A person whose parent, or carer, serves in the regular armed forces, or as a reservist, or has done at any point during the first 25 years of that person's life. (though I think some older than 25 would say you never stop being a Service child!)

Now that the lockdown is easing, it’s great to see the light at the end of the tunnel and life getting back to normal – and of course this is the time my husband decides to return home having dodged the worst! We military spouses have a bit of a joke that something always happens when the other half goes away – well the Coronavirus has to be one of the biggest “what could possibly go wrong while he’s away?!?” so far! Despite my last blog way back at the start of May stating excitedly that my husband would be back in a few weeks – he ended up being massively delayed. This was mainly due to 2 weeks’ allowance for isolation time for his replacement, but also his replacement breaking his foot and being medevac’d back to the UK, an “exposure to Coronavirus” scare, and a huge sandstorm that meant on the day we finally thought he would be home, the aircraft was cancelled. All a day in the life of a military family, hey?! The pandemic certainly has not made it any easier. But – home now!

 So, back to some normality, yet still for many people there are worries about returning to work and school, and just being out in general, especially for those who are more vulnerable. We anticipate in September there will be a big resettlement period for many schools as more pupils return, and there may be some anxieties and concerns arising about returning. Nickie and I will be running Anxiety Workshops and our new and exciting Well-being Warriors groups in the Autumn term so please let us know if this is something your school would like to sign up for.

Nickie and I have been very busy being celebrities on BBC Radio York and BBC Radio Tees last week! It was very last minute – we were told the day before that it would be happening! Although we were extremely nervous, it was great for Nickie to be able to spread the word about her wonderful Armed Forces Day for children despite the fact it was sadly unable to go ahead this year, and for the both of us to be able to spread awareness about North Yorkshire’s Service children and the challenges they face, and why it is so important to both support and celebrate them. Nickie even managed to plug the website which was fantastic and hopefully we can beat that record of 10 hits in one day! J

Planning has begun for this year’s Ripon Cathedral Service to Remember for Service Children, which will look slightly different to previous years! Nickie and I decided in the current climate it was best to err on the side of caution and NOT attempt to plan a gathering of over 800 Service children squished two per seat into the Cathedral! However, we came up with the idea with Ripon Cathedral’s support to instead film and edit all the components of the service into one virtual, interactive service which can be sent out to all the schools in North Yorkshire, and we hope to get as many schools as possible watching and joining in with the virtual service in their own separate school assemblies on Friday 6th November 2020.

The theme of this year’s service is HEROES. We want to celebrate our Heroes, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic, whether that be teachers, our military, NHS staff, veterans, postal workers, or any other amazing people who have been key to keeping our country safe and ticking over while we have all been in lockdown. We have already had such a wonderful response with lots of schools already securing specific parts in the service such as reading prayers and singing hymns. We also have confirmed contributions from some VIPs such as the Station Commander at RAF Leeming Gp Cpt Crawford, the Lord Lieutenant of North Yorkshire Ms Ropner, and the brilliant Mr Ken Cooke and Mr Douglas Petty from the York Normandy Veterans.

We will be sending out an email early September with requests for videos of the Service children talking about their hero, or showcasing their hero artwork. Please do let us know if your school would like to contribute to or even just take part in watching the virtual service in November.

I had a gorgeous chat with Katie Salari from the Never Such Innocence project which exists to give Service children a means to express their thoughts on life in the Armed Forces through creative resources such as poetry and art. They are currently running a “Voices of Armed Forces Children” project where they are asking for any artistic contributions from Service children. More information can be found here: https://www.neversuchinnocence.com/voices-of-armed-forces-children. The Never Such Innocence project’s also offers writing workshops to schools, which they hope will enable young people to reflect on war and conflict in a creative manner. If you would like to request a workshop you can email them on enquiries@neversuchinnocence.com

Finally, I just want to say a big thank you to everyone who has made my first year in the SPC role so enjoyable. It was definitely straight in at the deep end last September with the Ripon Cathedral Service looming, and thank God for Nickie who has been amazing – so patient as I’ve been learning the ropes, and always gently nudging me in the right direction! Also a big thank you to our wonderful line manager Trish for always looking out for us and fighting our corner this entire year!

I can honestly say that from the schools, to Army and RAF welfare staff, to the Children and Family Support Workers who I share an office with, every person I have been in contact with within the loop of people who help in supporting Service children and families in North Yorkshire has been so welcoming and eager to be involved with the work that Nickie and I do. I think there is a real commonality in this county for supporting our Service children and families, and I really hope this can continue.

 

Have a lovely summer everybody and we look forward to seeing you in September!

Jess

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Flaming June

Posted 3/6/2020

Hello!  I hope you have been able to enjoy some of the glorious weather we’ve had recently.  Jess informed me yesterday that chasing toddlers round the garden has given her a great tan, I, sadly, am just a little less ‘peely-wally’ as my Mother-in-Law would say!

I also hope you had a chance to read the Dandelion Blog last month!  The ‘Coronavirus Chat’ from our Service children was so funny, it struck me how aware our children are of the world – I am fairly sure I wasn’t like that when I was a young Service child!  I have posted some more ‘Coronavirus Chat’ on the Dandelion Blog today, I particularly like the advice that a Paw Patrol Onesie would suffice as protective clothing.  Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find one in my size!  We are keen to share the voices of more Service children so if you know of any who would like to talk to us please let me know!

Last month we published some VE Day 75 materials on our website and we hope you were able to use some of them!  We’d love to replace the materials with photos of completed VE Day 75 work so if you have any you would like to share please email them to us!

This week more children were able to go back to school.  My own Year 10 & 12 children are waiting for their schools to let them know when and how that will be happening – and they are, unsurprisingly, a little anxious about it, it is a worrying time for us all.  Jess and I are trying to ensure that we offer useful support to schools, Service children and their families in the coming months.  We are considering offering our anxiety workshops as a package that can be emailed directly to families; creating some resources around a Covid-19 story; continuing to phone children and parents for 1:1 support and making our Covid-19 Support & Loss & Separation support sheets available to families.  We would like to hear your thoughts on these ideas or any other ways you think we can support your school, Service children and their families.

We had some good news during half term, the Festival of Friends project funding from the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust has been extended until the end of March 2021 which means we can continue to support the schools involved with the wonderful projects they have planned. 

While we’re on the good news wave, Jess and I were very proud that the Dandelion Blog was included in the SCiP Alliance’s report ‘Listening to learn: The Voices of Service Children’ as one of 8 examples of strong practice.  If you haven’t seen the report yet it is available at: https://www.scipalliance.org/assets/files/Listening-to-learn-FINAL-ONLINE-2020_05_14.pdf

One of the many things lost to the Coronavirus pandemic is our Armed Forces Day for Children event which should have taken place this month however, Jess and I are really hopeful that the Remembrance Service at Ripon Cathedral will be able to go ahead in some form and have started planning for it – we will email you further information soon!

Stay safe & hopefully we will see you soon!

Nickie

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Happy May!

Posted 6/5/2020

Hello everyone and Happy May! I hope – as ever – you are all keeping safe and well.

I know I’m not the only one finding it all a bit never-ending at the moment. Especially with kids at home, it’s certainly not “time off”! I keep hearing things mentioned about “slowing down” and time for “reflection” …ha! I wish! The important thing to remember is we are all in it together, we are all keeping safe and doing our best to keep those most vulnerable safe too.

We are now on the countdown to my husband returning from his deployment – 3 weeks to go! – and then hopefully we can resume some level of normality (sanity) in our house. I am so aware I am not the only military spouse in this situation and this lockdown for many of our Service families is just another level on top of the usual challenges military life throws at us. Some families may, like mine, have a parent who is currently away from home, whether that’s through working as a key worker or on a deployment. Some families are now living in a bit of an uncertain period with their postings now on hold. It’s not easy(!) and Nickie and I certainly understand. We are still here if we are needed for any support.

Through helping Service children and their families to deal with loss and separation, Nickie and I have amassed many different activities and some useful links that may help children and families to cope during this time. It is vital that our mental health and emotional wellbeing is being acknowledged and cared for. I think this strange and unprecedented situation we all find ourselves in has really shown how important human contact is for our health and happiness! Please find some ideas for dealing with loss and separation here: (link to PDF)

Unfortunately, despite many meetings at County Hall with the VE 75 committee and working closely with a few of our lovely key schools plus the RBL nursing home Lister House in Ripon, I am very sad that our plans for VE Day celebrations are no longer able to go ahead. However, we have our VE Day 75 tab up and running on the website where you will find lots of different activities surrounding VE Day 75 plus some great PowerPoint presentations aimed at younger and older children which explain very clearly why we are commemorating this event. There is also an amazing VE Day 75 activity pack on there from Ceri Cusack at The Dales School (thanks Ceri for letting us share!), and links to the RBL’s VE Day resources. The RBL promises some great events we definitely encourage you to get involved with, such as Dame Vera Lynn’s performance of “We’ll Meet Again” which will be on BBC One at 9pm on 8th May and is sure to be a very emotional tribute – I think it will really strike a chord with our current situation as well.

Taking some inspiration from the absolutely wonderful Colonel Tom Moore (Happy 100th Birthday!) we would like to ask everyone to encourage the younger generation to research a veteran of the Second World War in honour of the upcoming 75Th anniversary of the end of the War in Europe. (link to Veteran profile activity) FaceTime/Skype/Zoom your grandparents/great-grandparents – even if they were only children at the time of VE Day in 1945 – and find out what they remember of the street parties and celebrations! Did their dad go to war? Their brother? What did they do in the Second World War and where were they posted? A lot of our work surrounding VE Day 75 was aimed at bridging the intergenerational gap between those who remember the war and our youngest people. My daughter is five, and her generation will be the last to be lucky enough to know and remember the veterans of the Second World War. It is so important that we make sure those generations connect.

I hope everyone is enjoying the lovely weather – long may it continue!

Jess

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May You Live in Interesting Times...

Posted 2/4/2020

They say ‘May you live in interesting times’ and we certainly are!  This April blog comes from the safety of my dining table.  Actually, to be totally honest, most of the blogs I write come from my dining table so no difference there!

Jess and I are still here, working away and trying to support our Service children the best we can.  Where possible we have contacted the children we normally support in school and spoken to them and their parents.  This will continue for as long as the schools are closed – and as long as they want to chat to us! 

We are aware that some assignments (postings) have been frozen until the summer.  This may mean that you have families who thought they were leaving North Yorkshire in the next couple of weeks but are now here for the foreseeable future which may be quite unsettling - to say the least!  Don’t forget we’re here if you feel there are families who could do with extra support in these unsettling times.

I hope you noticed we have refreshed the SPC website!  We are very proud of the first Dandelion Blog which was published last month and we’re planning to publish the next edition after Easter – if you know of any Service children who would like to be featured then please let us know!  It would be really interesting to find out what children think of the current situation – if you have key workers children at school who would be willing to answer some questions for us please let me know – Nickie.Young@NorthYorks.gov.uk

It looks as though we will not be able to celebrate VE Day 75 in the way we hoped however, Jess has produced a gorgeous VE Day 75 resource pack which she had intended to email to schools – if you would still like a copy please let Jess know: Jessica.Greenhalgh@northyorks.gov.uk.  Thinking about VE Day 75 reminded me of VE Day 70 which I celebrated on Le Cateau Primary School field!  It was the first event I organised as Service Pupils’ Champion and the pre-cursor to our Armed Forces Day for Children event.  I can vividly remember standing on the school field with Le Cateau’s fantastic Caretaker Mr Mel Shepherd and hearing tracked vehicles rumble down the road – until that point we hadn’t been entirely sure that there would be anything for the children to look at!  On that day Le Cateau’s Class 5H surprised everyone by dancing to the REME Band playing ‘Uptown Funk’.  5H had been working on the surprise for weeks and they were amazing – the footage is still available to prove it, have a look at “5H Wow the Crowd at the HMS Heroes Catterick Garrison VE Day Celebrations” on YouTube.  It’s so odd to think that those children are in Year 10 now!

Jess has also been in touch with RBL Lister House, the residents there are in lockdown and therefore are unable to leave the nursing home or have family & friends visit them.  The would love to hear from Service Children to raise their spirits and have asked that letters be sent, with a stamped self-addressed envelope to ‘Residents of Lister House, c/o Rachel Gilby, Lister House, Southgate, Ripon, HG4 1PG’.  If you would like any further information please email Jess – Jessica.Greenhalgh@northyorks.gov.uk.

I hope you are all well, we’re looking forward to seeing you all again!

Nickie

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