Inspiring 'Being Well' for Life
by Jo Underwood
Hello Everyone and welcome to the March Edition of our InspireU Newsletter. In celebration of International Women’s Day, we have a newsletter full of inspirational and incredible articles dedicated to the achievement of so many wonderful human beings standing together to make the world a better place. We want to say a huge thank you as always to our generous contributors who willingly and freely share their experiences with us in the bid to inspire others. It is, as always, a true privilege and pleasure to collate and host these articles.
This week we have also witnessed the full return to school life for our friends and colleagues in England and our social media feeds have been alight with smiling faces, positivity and gladness. We have also been so pleased to see such a focus being placed on wellbeing and have welcomed detailed discussion around curriculum reform and the shifting focus of how we can develop the whole individual so that they thrive in all aspects of their lives.
You can find out more about why we are so passionate about supporting schools to place wellbeing, human principles and a rights respecting approach at the heart of their school communities in our latest post What Is ‘Being Well’ And Why Is It So Important To Education And The Future Of Our Children?. You can also access our OFFER of support for schools to begin their journey to achieve a whole school approach to ‘Being Well’ here or by clicking on the image. We know it’s been an incredibly challenging time and we’re here to help.
Women - A Sporting Heritage
This article written by our friend, colleague and Head of Education at Sporting Heritage, Derek J Peaple, outlines the symbiotic relationship between women’s sporting history and a wider process of social change personified through the incredible career of the legendary Billie Jean King.
‘Sports’, Billie Jean King once observed, ‘are a microcosm of society’. She is perhaps better qualified than almost any one else to comment. Her stellar tennis career, and equally inspirational social advocacy, both coincided with – and helped to define – the drive for change and equality that fuelled the early stages of the women’s movement in the 1960s.
Initially sparked by her searing sense of injustice at being barred from a group photo of junior players at a tournament at the Los Angeles Tennis Club in 1955 for wearing the shorts her mother made her instead of the regulation tennis dress traditionally worn by female athletes, Billie Jean’s subsequent fight for equality in both society and sport arguably reached its denouement in 1973. After defeating former leading male professional and self-proclaimed chauvinist Bobby Riggs in straight sets in the so-called ‘Battle of the Sexes’ (watched at the time by a worldwide TV audience of 90 million and incidentally the subject of a recent, Golden Globe nominated film of the same title starring Emma stone and Steve Carell) Billie Jean observed that ‘I thought it would set us back 50 years if I didn’t win that match…’
At 77 she still remains an iconic figure and in 2009 received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honour, for her continued advocacy work on behalf of women and the LGBTQ community…
Personified by Billie Jean, this symbiotic relationship between women’s sporting history and a wider process of social change is now a key theme within the new Sporting Heritage Education Strategy.
Sporting Heritage https://www.sportingheritage.org.uk is a not-for-profit community interest company working specifically to support and promote a love of sporting history in community and education settings. The aim of the new Education Strategy is simple. To add value to learning and provide adaptable resources for teachers from Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 5 that will excite, engage and inspire learners of all ages. It’s our intention to achieve this through a range of events, programmes and resources that promote curiosity, enjoyment and fun in the cross curricular study of our sporting past, and what we can learn from it about the future.
The developing resources in relation to women’s sport therefore seek to creatively combine interviews with former athletes, current performers and emergent young athletes with narrative and primary evidence as part of a comparative approach which explores new opportunities, changes and remaining challenges. They can therefore be used flexibly, either in relation to specific units of the History curriculum exploring continuity, change and turning points, as more generic assembly themes or personal development programme materials with which to explore rights and equalities questions.
To find out more about the strategy please join us live for a free Webinar – ‘Back to the Future – Sporting Heritage’s Education Strategy Explained & Shared’ – on 16 March. Don’t worry if you can’t make it: the session will also be recorded and available on the Sporting Heritage website.
And as Billie Jean also once said, ‘sport teaches you character… it teaches you about life’.
PE - Physical Education, Personal Evolution and Powerful Educators?
The following article has been written by the amazing Annabel Chaffey. Annabel is an ex-international athlete and Youth Olympic athlete who is passionate about sharing the value of sport & education combined. She now works for a Management Consultancy specialising in Leadership Development & High Performance.
It’s easy, as someone passionate about sport, to spout praises for the value of students taking part in Physical Education lessons and the benefits this can bring to an individual. I’d like to think that we’re now also in a place with our education system where benefits from physical activity and sport are universally accepted, with some as a by-product from the direct physical benefits, even if different value is placed on said benefits. What I think is still worth bringing to the debate is just what these benefits might be. From personal experience, they can be wide ranging and unexpected but for me some stand out as fundamental and then key to life as an adult beyond education. When we think about rebuilding our lives from this current chapter of disruption and challenge, I hope that PE is recognised as vital in supporting our young people make sense of this time, breathe and enjoy the lives they’ve regained.
Having participated in a multitude of school sports opportunities it was a central part of my adolescence and made up a huge part of my identity at the time. So aside from enjoying the energy release and being good at many of the physical skills required, I relished the opportunity to put into practice softer skills that weren’t necessarily acquired or required in the classroom. There are the obvious skills such as teamwork, cooperation, a first foray into leadership, as well as many more. Less obvious ones can be around personal charisma and presentation and the confidence to engage with new people.
However, if we take these as definite and obvious outputs or lessons from sport, why are they so important and why, as the title of this article suggests, are they about so much more than PE as a lesson? Developing these skills in an active way from a young age is fundamental in shaping how we evolve into adults and into the individuals we all are. A large part of functioning as an adult will require you to operate with others, cooperating, challenging, leading and working together as a team. Obvious some might say. What is not so obvious is just how tricky these skills can be to master. As a professional who now supports organisations in tackling some of these challenges, it is clear that some people really struggle to understand them and then apply them. There’s a reason why sports metaphors land so well in explaining them. It’s relatable. For example, at some point we all have experienced school sport, working in a team with people both more and less skilled than us, and had to make it work. Sounds familiar in the workplace too, hey? It is why PE as a fundamental lesson at school is so important in allowing the personal evolution of our young people. It creates a practice environment to explore personal relationships, power dynamics and conflict or confrontation in a way that we can relate to our day to day life without permanently damaging relationships outside of that environment. Most people in business would love that opportunity; to have a dry run at a performance conversation, difficult conversation or leadership role.
The opportunity for skills practice that aren’t just physical is crucial as we evolve; every single job will require an element of skill that isn’t role based or specialised – it will require ‘people skills’; something often sniffed at. This brings me onto the next PE that I’d like to explore – the role of the ‘powerful educator’ (otherwise known as a teacher!) within this context. Some of my teachers were the most influential people I have ever known and shaped who I wanted to become as an adult. I am who I am today in part because of them, their guidance and the opportunities they gave me – and for the record it wasn’t just PE teachers that had this impact on me. So, what role do they play in encouraging physical activity and the skills it brings an individual? For me some of the most impactful lessons from other teachers were an affirmation of the soft skills learned in a PE lesson. Their impact being that they could be applied to a specialist subject; a confirmation that ‘soft skills’ were always worthy of being employed, understood and practiced. One such lesson was from my Chemistry teacher, Mr Bevan; ‘that you can’t eat an elephant in one go’ and how you had to approach revision in small chunks, working with others, to get through the whole course and get to being exam ready.
A metaphor beautifully brought to life by the hockey team I played in shouting ‘next five’ to each other in reference to focusing only on the next five minutes of a game when things weren’t going our way… we could only approach the match in small chunks, working together and eventually we would have hopefully won the match. There’s also the very real application of specialist areas to PE itself – biology, maths and physics can come into it amongst other topics. The power in the teacher comes from their ability to highlight the connections between subjects for the individuals to then follow and explore themselves. This, confirms that all subjects are worthwhile in understanding, utilising and sharing skills & learnings from all. From there I believe it helps people to evolve into well rounded individuals; we reach a point where all your lessons as a young person come with an understanding of how they are applicable even if they aren’t enjoyed.
To summarise I suppose that to me PE is about so much more than Physical Education. Don’t get me wrong the very literal purpose of the subject is very important but it’s the reach the subject has beyond just physical wellbeing that makes it fundamental. Fundamental to the creation of individuals who understand wellbeing, are informed and can interact with others in a constructive and positive manner that benefits more than just themselves; someone you might call a ‘good citizen’. All of that and more through the power of a PE lesson! I therefore, truly hope it is prioritised for our young people as we move down the road of a return to normality where these skills will be needed more than ever.
Reflect Connect - Choose to Challenge
In this article Annie Pendrey, Director of Educational Spaces Ltd., founder of #ReflectConnect, ITE Tutor, PhD student and upcoming author of a book Reflective Practice available from September 2020, shares part of her inspirational journey of reflection with us.
International Women’s Day is a day like most days in my life where I reflect in and on action about my professional practice, align my values and beliefs to my Ikigai and challenge myself daily to stay on my freelance pathway.
The last academic year has been a challenge but also joyful. I have gained the freedom to write, to connect with others to reflect upon a whole raft of educational issues where I can utilise my skills, attributes and creative brain.
More recently and aligning to International Women’s Day, my personal challenge for the year ahead is to. ‘Challenge Creativity, Challenge Curiosity, Challenge Curriculum’.
Why not join me in my challenge and take time to reflect upon creativity, the creative cycle and consider how as an educator you prepare your environment for either children, young people, parents or staff to feel at ease in order to germinate ideas and then for these ideas to flow?
Csikszentmihalyi describes flow as a state of complete immersion in an activity, those creative moments when we are curious and fearless, as we travel along our journey towards self-actualisation. This is a journey which concentrates on creativity as opposed to compliancy, a journey which is less concerned with product but the process. Let us just take a moment here to reflect upon this challenge and consider: Does our curriculum cultivate creativity? Does our curriculum focus fully on process not product? Does our curriculum embrace flow? If you are doubtful about any of these then maybe you too need to take the challenge.
One of the first steps in the challenge is my creation of workshops for children in the use of bullet journaling, using bullet journaling for so many aspects of emotional well-being and all of these are aligned to my rainbow curriculum. I have the pleasure of presenting some of my work at Aspire: The Power of the Arts on April 24th . If you would like further details on my sessions for staff, children and young people please contact me or follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn.
In addition to this, I have created a blog and a space on Twitter called #ReflectConnect where anyone can join me each Sunday to post their reflections of their week. Come along and Join the Challenge.
And oh, My Little Book of Reflective Practice will be on the shelves – September 2021
Twitter @AnniePendrey Email – email@example.com
In celebration of women who inspire us, we wanted to take the time to share another of Rachel Holt’s inspiring Motivational Makaton pieces. Rachel’s kindness and energy cannot fail to bring a smile to your face and has filled our Twitter feed with happiness during the challenging time we have all faced during lockdown – thank you Rachel. Rachel is a Communication and Interaction Leader and Makaton Tutor – we love following her on Twitter @RachelH82471802
Strength, Resilience and Emotional Intelligence
The following article has been written by the wonderful Lisa Broome. We have had the absolute pleasure of seeing Lisa present her incredible work and are we are so pleased she has chosen to share her experiences in our newsletter.
I have been an Early Years Manager for over 30 years, and after that amount of time I assumed I had developed a strong sense of professional identity and purpose. However, last year presented the biggest uncertainties, challenges and barriers that I had ever encountered. Covid 19 rampaged through the world, my world, and like so many others it deeply affected my personal and professional life.
The reality of the task in hand, to confidently lead and steer my team through this unparalleled situation, whilst protecting the team, children and families was truly overwhelming. This task troubled me professionally, also deeply personally. I was a mum, grandparent, wife and Manager, how could I balance all of these things with courage?
This uncertainty had created a state of flux, a feeling of ‘in-betweeness’, (Rantatalo and Lindberg ,2018). I knew I had to trust in my vocational experience and expertise, but the enormity of this task felt overwhelming. This was the point when I recognised that Goleman’s model of Emotional Intelligence had always been my leadership approach, and was needed now more than ever.
Leading with Emotional Intelligence involves not only recognising emotions in others, but having empathy and being attuned to their feelings and concerns. This resonated with my own concerns and emotions, therefore the empathy became a natural response. Becoming attuned at this level meant that my team felt valued and empowered, we connected in a unique way. I began to feel I had a purpose again, no longer trapped in-between fear and a state of flux.
I began to develop confidence in the task in hand, gain control again. I gained strength during this time as a Manager, but also as a woman, mum, wife and grandparent. This felt empowering, I had developed a deeper understanding of my own resilience and capability.
I began to think creatively, finding solutions and new ways to guide each other gracefully through the chaos. The image of the swans symbolises my personal experiences. The swans representing loyalty and strength, and the power within. This challenge remains, but with resilience and emotional intelligence I feel empowered to continue, composed and in control.
Photograph taken by @EmilyBroomeArt
A woman who inspires with strength, courage and resilience.
Living the Dream
As part of our International Women’s Day 2021 Campaign, we were so privileged to be able to shine a spotlight on the amazing Founder and Creative Director of DanceSyndrome, Jen Blackwell. We were also delighted to have been given the opportunity to read the incredibly inspirational story of the impact DanceSyndrome has had on the lives of so many.
“Jen Blackwell is a dancer and musician who happens to have Down’s syndrome. Her learning disability has never stopped her from having hopes, dreams and passions, but she has faced many barriers in her life because of it. Jen and her parents have fought tirelessly for her right to follow her own path and live an independent life. DanceSyndrome was established to enable Jen, and others like her, to “dream, believe, achieve”, as she puts it. This is the inspiring story of a small charity that is making a big impact!”
We highly recommend reading this book which is packed full of truly inspiring stories that take you on a journey of passion, empowerment, independence, equity and inclusivity.
You can purchase a copy of this inspirational story here: Living the Dream – Amazon
Providing Family Guidance and Support
The article below has been written by Lisa Davies RGN, SCPHN, BSc, PGDip, MSc.
Lisa currently work as a Specialist Community Public Health Nurse within the Swansea University Bay Health Board. She originally trained as an Adult Registered General Nurse and then completed the Post Graduate Diploma for SCPHN training. Lisa has always had a passion for Autism and Additional Learning needs for children and adults and decided in 2018 to undertake the MSc in Autism and other related conditions at The Medical School Swansea University.
Having a young adult at home with ASD, who was originally diagnosed at four years old, I have been able to experience first-hand the challenges a parent faces on a day-to-day basis. Support has fluctuated over the years; services have ended due to lack of funding and peer support was non-existent. It was also a ‘fight’ to get what my son needed within education, and without my current knowledge and training, he might not have been able to get the right support and interventions compared to his peers. I felt ‘alone’ and that I was the only parent going through this and felt I had nowhere to turn post diagnosis.
I felt it was important that parents had that peer support or access to specific services so that they were able to meet those day-to-day challenges and access the right support at the right time for them. It continues to be a challenge that he is now an adult and will always need care and live at home with us. Parents experience challenges at different times of their child, young adult, adult or their own lives. It is important that they are supported and offered advocacy during those times, so that they can reach their full potential, gain early intervention and reach any targets set.
So as part of my studies and in collaboration with Education, I was able to set up a support group for parent/carers within the locality. As part of the group, I worked with Hafod Primary School Headteacher Mrs Rachael Webb and the Additional Learning Needs Co-ordinator Mrs Karen Evans to set it up.
The group was targeted at those parents with a child who had an additional learning need, emerging ASD or newly diagnosed ASD. The group offered support for parents in respect of local services/charities for support, behavioural issues, sleep, diet and toileting. The group also offered support for parents who themselves felt that they might have Autistic tendencies, and appropriate referrals were made to the Integrated Autism Service Swansea.
I was also able to arrange outside speakers to attend the group from National Autistic Society Parent/Carer Support, ASD Info Wales, Autside, Speech and Language Services and dietetics. The group was implemented for a six week trial and was then reviewed following feedback from parents/carers. Feedback from the group showed that this had been a success and only a few minor changes were required for this to continue as a monthly support group. As part of the group, it also highlighted a need for specialist ASD/ALN support and advice in respect of referrals to IAS, completing DLA and PIP forms, advocacy work for assessments an intervention required.
On the back of this, I have decided to launch an ASD/ALN health advocacy service to the Swansea community. The service is in the early stages of development and a business plan being finalised but hope that this will be available to families within in the next coming months. This will also be in line with the changes with the ALN Bill that is being implemented within Wales. My ethos is that all families have support an advice that is equitable and inclusive. It is at the heart of everything I do and believe in. The voice of parents and carers is often unheard or dismissed, and by offering this service I hope to empower families to be that bigger voice, and influence change and stigmatisation around ASD/ALN. Parents also wants practical advice and strategies to support their children/young adults at home, and report that this is often missing when accessing services.
I plan in the future to set up a hub for families where support on all areas of ASD/ALN is based and that they do not have to access different services at different times for what stage their child or young adult is at. The hub will also provide support for autistic adults and will link into services for employment and training. It is important to have a goal and focus, and I am sure in time I will be able to implement this within the Swansea community.
Pamela Christine Evans is an honours graduate of the University of Wales and an experienced teacher of World Faiths. She is the author of several children’s stories, published articles, educational resources, and books on esoteric spirituality and the Celtic saints. She is also an accomplished singer of jazz, blues, folk, Latin American, pop and rock.
Pam is committed to inter-faith dialogue for peace which she sees as a vital process in the current world climate of fear, misunderstanding and terrorism. Her vision of Peace Mala was certainly born out of the 9/11 disaster but was also influenced by personal experience and witnessing of intolerance, prejudice and bullying.
In 2006, she received the Noble Soul Award from the Racial Attacks & Harassment Monitoring Association in recognition of her outstanding contribution to challenging Islamaphobia in Welsh schools. In 2010, she received the Recognising Achievement for Services to Wales for promoting tolerance from the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones AM. In 2019 Pam was shortlisted for the prestigious Annemarie Schimmel Award by the Muslim News Awards for Excellence. In 2019 she received the MBE for services to Peace and Interfaith Understanding from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms.
When 9/11 happened, the world changed forever. The terrible events of September 11th, 2001 brought with it an aftermath of fear and confusion. The rise in Islamaphobia in the world was to be expected, as a response to the attack. What was more shocking was the rise in fundamentalism, racism and prejudice that we are still faced with today. At the time of this terrifying event Pam Evans was working as Head of the Department of Religious Studies in Coedcae School, Llanelli, Wales, UK. The school is a co-educational comprehensive school with around 1,000 pupils aged 11-16. It wasn’t long before the minority of Muslim and Asian pupils in her school started to suffer bullying. Pam realised that something educational needed to be done to empower the students being bullied and to educate everyone about human rights and dignity for all.
The vision and concept of Peace Mala was her response to the bullying. She thought of something simple but effective that would engage the minds of young people; a symbolic double rainbow bracelet, loaded with messages, that would be fun to make and wear. The Peace Mala bracelet comprises fourteen coloured beads with a central clear bead strung between symbolic knots. The central bead represents the wearer and the whole cosmos, emphasising the interconnectedness of everyone and everything. The final single bead is used as a toggle to bring the bracelet around the wearer’s wrist. This represents unity, harmony and peace. Running through the Peace Mala is a simple thread which holds all the rainbow beads together. This may be called the Golden Thread of Spirituality which connects us all through the love in our hearts: acknowledging the Golden Rule and our spiritual unity opens up the pathway to peace.
Peace Mala’s intention is to cut through all forms of prejudice, to confront bullying, to support human rights and to celebrate what makes us different from each other.
Peace Mala focuses on the Golden Rule. Its intention is to educate and remind everyone that this rule is recognised by many scholars, teachers and philosophers. It is also universal to all compassionate faiths. Simply stated, it is: “Treat others as you would wish them to treat you.”
The word ‘mala’ is Sanskrit and means ‘garland of flowers’. In the East a mala is a string of beads used in meditation or prayer as each bead or ‘flower’ focuses on a prayer or mantra. The rainbow beads on this mala of peace focus on the golden rule. They also represent the human family in all its glorious diversity and Divine potential.
Peace Mala promotes friendship, respect and peace between people of all cultures, lifestyles, faiths, beliefs and none. It is a vision for the future. Wearing the Peace Mala is a promise to help create a better world.
The Peace Mala project is a non-political, non-religious charitable organisation. It does not support any political party, movement or belief system over any other. Peace Mala’s aim is to contribute to education for global citizenship by inviting all people to treat each other with respect regardless of race, colour, religion, gender, sexuality, size, age or ability. Peace Mala’s compassionate wish is for people, animals and the environment to be at peace.
Since the launch of Peace Mala at the UNA Wales Temple of Peace in Cardiff in 2002, much has been achieved. Many schools, youth groups and faith communities across the UK and beyond have welcomed it as a positive move towards mutual respect and harmony within communities. It also provides a complete, effective and innovative answer to all the requirements of the Government’s ESDGC directive (Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship).
Many schools across the UK are now engaging with the project to achieve Peace Mala Accreditation at bronze, silver, gold and platinum level. South Wales Police Youth Volunteers are presently working for accreditation. In March 2020 Sunrise Academy in Orange City Florida was the first school in the USA to be Peace Mala Accredited. The Lord Mayor of the City and County of Swansea wrote a letter of congratulations to staff and pupils and also gifted the Civic Plate as a token of friendship.
Upper School Principal Levi Connolly remarked, “Peace Mala provides schools with a foundation to instill values of compassion. Peace Mala is truly a force for good in our world, and it is much needed in our schools – whether it be in the U.S, or overseas. Every child can benefit from learning about active compassion, understanding, respect, peace and friendship. If we are to build a better world, the message of peace must sound the strongest among our children, because they truly are our future.”
To find out more about Peace Mala and Pam’s work explore the website: Peace Mala
“Creative, Compassionate Education that Empowers and Embraces All. Uniting the World in Peace”. Endorsed by His Holiness Pope Francis, His Holiness The Dalai Lama of Tibet, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and the Archbishop of Wales