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Summer's here!

Posted 4/7/2018

Happy July – 3 weeks to go!  I don’t understand why this end of the year is always so manic!  I always think ‘ah July, time to wind down’ and then when July arrives everything is crazy, at home and at work – that’s why we need the summer holidays!  I am suffering from the usual ‘Where has that year gone?’ and in truth it has been a long and busy academic year!

After successfully completing Parents EFA, Primary / Secondary EFA and Train the Trainers courses and receiving our EFA Trainers licenses, Annabel and I, along with our colleagues from Prevention Services, have been presenting Parents EFA courses across North Yorkshire this year.  6 courses have taken place and have been an unmitigated success, surprising even us!  Demand for the courses has been high and those who have completed have reported a significant increase in mental wellbeing, not just anecdotally, participants complete Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing questionnaires pre and post taking part in the course and the results have been statistically significant, a mean result of +10 improvement in mental wellbeing being reported for all the courses offered this year.  If you are aware of any parents who would benefit from attending a Parents Emotional First Aid course then please refer them to us.

Unfortunately demand for the Primary and Secondary EFA courses has not been as high but we are hopeful uptake will be better next term.

The EFA Course inspired Annabel and I to offer Anxiety Workshops to schools and we have been presenting them at schools across North Yorkshire and have had some lovely feedback including this from a parent whose child had attended a workshop:

“So happy S is getting help with her anxiety she attended a workshop with school yesterday and she said it was great learning techniques to overcome her fears xx #emotionalfirstaid

We have three Anxiety Workshops available which are suitable from Year 2 to Year 7+.  If you would like Anxiety Workshops in your school then please contact Annabel or I to discuss dates.

In the Parents EFA course we discuss self-esteem, how it is built and how it can be damaged.  One of the parents attending the course in Colburn said ‘I wish I’d been told this at school’ and from that comment our new Self-esteem Workshops were born!  The Self-esteem Workshop looks at how self-esteem can be built, how we can improve others self-esteem and in turn strengthen our own.  We ran the first workshop with the Year 6 class at Wavell Juniors last week and the feedback from the children and the class teacher was very positive.  The workshop is aimed at children in Years 5, 6 & 7.  If you’re interested in the Self-esteem Workshop for your school then please get in touch.

During the Anxiety Workshops Annabel and I have met children who are struggling with anxiety, we have been able to offer to support these children on a 1:1 basis in their school.  The support we offer follows the principles of Primary EFA and we aim to help children understand their anxieties and hopefully enable them to overcome them.  We have also offered support to families who are struggling with transition to or from North Yorkshire, and to families who have a serving parent deployed or on training/exercise and just need a little extra support to help them through.

In the past couple of years Annabel and I have received increasing requests for support from parents who are struggling with getting their children the SEND support they require, in some cases children have spent large amounts of time out of school because a suitable placement has not been offered.  Annabel and I have worked hard to establish a relationship with the SEND Admissions Team and supported them in gaining some understanding of the difficulties which can arise for military families.  This has led to the establishment of a permanent point of contact for military families – Alison Hall – which will hopefully smooth transitions into North Yorkshire.  As you are aware, the SEND Review for North Yorkshire is ongoing, we’ve been working with Jane Le Sage & her team and Lt. Col. Joe Jordan to ensure that children from military families are remembered in all stages of the process.

In November Annabel organised her fifth Remembrance Service at Ripon Cathedral.  Hearing 600 children singing together in such a beautiful setting always makes me emotional!  The 2017 Service was particularly poignant thanks to the beautiful reading of ‘In Flanders Fields’ by Mr John Jeffries who lost friends and comrades in WWII and who himself was wounded and taken prisoner of war.  The Poppy Wheel art provided by the schools who attended was particularly beautiful.  Annabel is already working hard on the Service for 2018 which this year will take place on Friday 9th November – more details to follow soon!

Annabel has undertaken a lot of work this year talking about the role of Service Pupils’ Champion to various people – if she hadn’t we wouldn’t have received the funding which has secured the role for another year!  Annabel has travelled to SCISS conferences to talk about military life in North Yorkshire and how children are supported here.  We have both been working at strengthening our links with CEAS and the Families Federations to ensure that children and their families are offered the best support available from the people most able to support.  The work that Annabel has done has led to requests for support from other counties in England who are considering establishing their own Service Pupils’ Champions roles and would like to model their roles on the work we do.  We find this very exciting because it means that Service Pupils should receive the support they need no matter where their family is posted.

I love presenting the Anxiety & Self Esteem Workshops – any excuse to spend a couple of hours being silly with children!  However my favourite day of the year has to be our Armed Forces for Children event which this year took place on Thursday 14th June.  Organisation this year was a little more fraught than it has been in the past, we had a lot of units deployed, training, on exercise or on leave which meant that offers of equipment and soldiers were not as forthcoming as they had been in previous years.  In fact at one point it looked like the only thing we would be able to offer the children was the REME Band and some food – my husband is OC of the REME Band and the food is organised by WO1 Jaime Irvine who has a daughter at Wavell Infants – you could say they had a vested interest!  As it happens offers of support did come in and we were happy that we would be able to offer another interesting, fun and a little bit educational day for the children.  Then the weather forecast started to change, the pictures on the BBC Weather App started to show little pretty swirls of wind – nothing too worrying until the Met Office named the little pretty swirls of wind ‘Storm Hector’ and suddenly we had to consider whether the day was going to be viable after all!  I spent the Wednesday afternoon on the phone to various people, assessing the risk and trying to decide if the day would be viable.  At the end of the school day on Wednesday 13th we decided we’d go with it and see what the next day would bring.  Thankfully, despite having to battle to set the tents up and ensure they stayed safely in place, the soldiers stuck it out and the children arrived – and we had a great day!  I have had some lovely ‘Thank you’ letters which I have shared with the people involved and we’ve booked the date for next year!  Photos of the day are available on the gallery page if you’ve got time to have a look!

On Monday this week Annabel and I accompanied some Service Pupils from Bedale High School, Le Cateau Community Primary School and St Mary’s Roman Catholic Primary School to the Chairman’s Reception to celebrate Armed Forces Week.  The children were delightful and spent the afternoon chatting to dignitaries such as the Chairman of North Yorkshire County Council, the Deputy Lord Lieutenant and representatives from the Army, Navy and RAF.  The children also enjoyed a guided tour of the Council Chambers and some tasty finger food.  This is the first year the Chairman has hosted such an event, he was delighted to meet the children and encourage them to eat more cake - not that they needed much encouragement!

So that has been a quick round-up of a year in the life of a Service Pupils’ Champion!  Hope you have a gorgeous summer holiday and we look forward to working with you all next year – don’t forget to put the date for the annual Remembrance Service in your diary – Friday 9th November 2018, Ripon Cathedral.

Happy Holidays!

Nickie

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