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Moving Forward, Even Though The World Feels Stuck?… Highlights Of 2021

So this is my last blog post of the year and, like most of us, I’m fatigued by the “When will this ever go away?”-ness of 2021.
I’m frustrated by how much more is still needed to protect children’s emotional health, but I’m ending the year by reminding myself of what I have been able to do to contribute.

None of this will change the world, but if it somehow changes the world for a few children, it’s a step in the right direction. 
I’ve worked on 23 programmes this year, and here are five of my partnership highlights;

Creating a course for Childline
Before Covid, I was contacted by a previous trainee of mine who was also a volunteer counsellor for Childline. 
She told me she found herself using what she learned from my training to support the children she helped, and asked me to contact Childline about what I did. So I did.

It’s taken nearly two years, but “Supporting Emotionally Healthy Brains” is now being rolled out as part of mandatory staff training across all 10 national Childline offices, and will be made available to thousands of volunteers in 2022.
This is my proudest achievement of the year.

Evaluating the ‘Impossible To Measure’
Evidencing ‘soft skills’ is a challenge at the best of times, and most of the evaluation work I do is around pulling together measurable indicators to do just that.

But there’s an added challenge when the participants of those programmes have disabilities and other complex needs that make those indicators at best, unreliable, and in reality, almost impossible.

I’ve been working on this all year with the University of Leicester, building an evaluation framework and code of practice for SENsory Atelier, a creative programme reaching children with a huge range of needs; learning, physical, social, emotional, behavioural and mental health.
It hurts my brain sometimes but I learn a lot along the way… 

Supporting Children In Care
It’s 15 years since I became involved in work for children in care, and it’s stayed close to my heart in the years since Well Within Reach was born.

I’ve been working with TMC throughout 2021, providing CPD like ‘Re-Building The Adolescent Brain’ and ‘Re-empowering The Powerless Child’ for their growing bank of ‘Creative Mentors’.
These practitioners support young people by developing a 1:1 relationship with them, enabling those children to discover their unique strengths and gifts, so they can flourish.

Typing, deleting, copying and pasting!
It’s one thing having knowledge in your head but, as I’ve discovered, another thing entirely to get that down on paper in a way that makes sense to everyone else.

This year I’ve written, re-written, and re-re-written thousands of words for a paper, advocating for emotional health to be at the heart of school practice and its essential role in building the capacity for children to learn, grow and thrive.
Specifically exploring the magic of the ‘creative brain’, it’s due to be published early in 2022. Watch this space!

Creating my first product
With in-person training knocked on the head, one of my challenges has been to find other ways to get the info that I share into those settings where young people need support; with wellbeing, emotional recovery and their relationship with learning, especially in the aftermath (and ongoing-ness!) of Covid.

I created a pack of 30 cards; an A-Z, plus 4 ‘Wild Cards’; each sharing a simple insight for the grown-ups, with related activities and prompts for children, ensuring that that learning translates into practice.

I had great creative fun with these, but the difference they’re already making is even better.
Read about it here. (The cards will be available for all in 2022; just enquire here)

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