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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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