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Happy New Year 2022!

Posted 12/1/2022

 Hello and Happy New Year!

I can’t quite believe we’ve already hit 2022; I’m sure time has stood still over this past two years. When I started this job I had a five year old daughter who is now in Juniors, and one year old twin boys who are now four and will be starting Reception this year!

My family were all hit with COVID the end of November and with time off work and then lots of catching up to do, I felt I didn’t get a chance to properly review the amazing success of the Service children and schools at the Cathedral Service back in November! I am so proud, as ever, of our amazing Service children in this county, and I am so grateful to all the Cathedral staff, colleagues, school staff, guests and VIPs from across North Yorkshire who are key to making this event happen every year.

We had some fantastic coverage of the Remembrance Service including an article from NYCC which you can read here: Children of county’s armed forces personnel gather to remember | News | North Yorkshire County Council and radio coverage from BFBS Catterick which you can listen to here: BFBS Radio RCS Coverage 2021 

Other than the Cathedral Service, it has been business as usual with the Service Children’s Champion’s role – 1:1 sessions and Wellbeing Workshops are available to all schools in North Yorkshire with any Service children who may benefit from the above! Please drop me an email if you would like to access any of the support I can offer. I will be delivering some CPD on Service children and families on Tuesday 15th Feb at 10am so if anybody is keen to sign up to that training, please access this through Early Help.

April is the “Month of the Military Child” and I am really keen to get some plans in place to celebrate and spread awareness of North Yorkshire’s Service children during this time! Please get in touch if you are keen to support this. I will update further as things progress.

Please read the below from NSI:

Never Such Innocence (NSI) have launched their 2021/22 creative arts competition! The international competition invites young people aged 9-18 to reflect on the theme of ‘Life After Conflict’, through one of the following mediums: Poetry, Art, Speech and Song. All participants will receive a special personalised certificate of commendation for their work! The deadline to enter is Friday 18th March 2022. Full competition details can be found on the NSI website.

You may wish to make use of our selection of digital materials, which are intended to help educators engage their pupils in the competition. These range from videos and useful prompts, to example conflicts and visual inspiration. With Remembrance Day around the corner, why not use this creative worksheet to create an entry for the competition!

If you have any questions or would like NSI to visit your school to provide a free creative workshop, please email

Finally, the next SFSG meeting will be held on Tues 1st Feb at 10am. Please email me if you are not already on the mailing list for this and would like to be involved in the next meeting.

All the best for 2022!


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November blog

Posted 9/11/2021

Hello and Happy November!

It’s been a crazy month or so in the run up to the Ripon Cathedral Service to Remember for North Yorkshire’s Service Children 2021, but we are full steam ahead for Friday 12th November at 1pm! I am so grateful for the support of the Cathedral staff, colleagues, school staff, guests and VIPs from across North Yorkshire and, of course, the wonderful Service children who are at the heart of everything I do in this role.

The theme this year is ‘100 Years of the Poppy’ and we have some really exciting contributions from schools including a couple of performances by the wonderful Northern MKC Choir, Remembrance animations by pupils at Romanby Primary School, poems from Bedale High and Hunton Arrathorne, and so much more! The Wensleydale School Choir are singing a brand new Remembrance Song called ‘100 Years of the Poppy’ which members of the choir wrote during a song writing workshop with  the Never Such Innocence project which I am so looking forward to hearing on Friday.

This year, we are honoured to welcome to the Cathedral Major General Charlton-Weedy CBE DL, County President of the Royal British Legion and Deputy Lieutenant of North Yorkshire. The Major General will be speaking about RBL and the 100 Year anniversary of the organisation, and will also be at the Cathedral as the Queen’s representative.

If you would like to tune in to the service, it will be live streamed on Ripon Cathedral’s YouTube channel at 1pm on Friday 12th November:  Ripon Cathedral - YouTube

You might also like to view the Order of Service, it is best to print this off as it is in booklet form and difficult to read online!

Other than the Cathedral Service, it has been business as usual with the Service Children’s Champion’s role – 1:1 sessions and Wellbeing Workshops are available to all schools in North Yorkshire with any Service children who may benefit from the above! Please drop me an email if you would like to access any of the support I can offer. 

Little Troopers has interviewed Matt Blyton, Senior Education Adviser for NYCC, about Service children in Education, which includes some great insights into the challenges Service children can face and how schools can mitigate those challenges. You can read the interview here: Service children in education (

Please read the below from NSI:

Never Such Innocence (NSI) have launched their 2021/22 creative arts competition! The international competition invites young people aged 9-18 to reflect on the theme of ‘Life After Conflict’, through one of the following mediums: Poetry, Art, Speech and SongAll participants will receive a special personalised certificate of commendation for their work! The deadline to enter is Friday 18th March 2022. Full competition details can be found on the NSI website.

You may wish to make use of our selection of digital materials, which are intended to help educators engage their pupils in the competition. These range from videos and useful prompts, to example conflicts and visual inspiration. With Remembrance Day around the corner, why not use this creative worksheet to create an entry for the competition!

If you have any questions or would like NSI to visit your school to provide a free creative workshop, please email

 Finally, the next SFSG meeting will be held on Tues 25th January at 9.30. Please email me if you are not already on the mailing list for this and would like to be involved in the next meeting.

Wishing you all a lovely end to the Autumn season!


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Welcome back!

Posted 13/9/2021


Happy September!  I hope you’re all well and have had a lovely summer? My family and I didn’t really get too far this year but we managed to have lots of lovely local days out! We are really so lucky here in North Yorkshire to have so many beautiful places on our doorstep. It’s also been nice to feel we are back to some level of normality but at the same time I’m very aware things are not quite 100% and we are still having to be careful. I’m keeping everything crossed for the year ahead!

So as I mentioned in my last blog prior to the summer hols, Nickie has sadly (for us!) left the post of Service Children’s Champion for the Catterick area. That just leaves me for now, though we are very hopeful that funding will be approved soon for a second SCC to be appointed. In the meantime, Catterick schools please don’t hesitate to contact me if you need any advice or support – I’ll do whatever I can to help.

Which leads me nicely in to what I can offer in schools this year! It’s the same as ever, with 1:1 wellbeing sessions and group sessions available. I am hoping to continue the Five Ways to Wellbeing, Wellbeing Warriors and Anxiety Workshops which have all had a really positive impact on those pupils who accessed them last year. I am able to send links for the virtual Anxiety Workshops as well as deliver them in person. Please do be aware that as it is currently just me, working Mon-Weds, I will have to work on a first come first served basis with schools and also limit my time to 6 weeks in each school. As much as I would absolutely love to fit you all in every week it’s just not possible!

I have also been working on our annual Service to Remember which I am very excited to announce will be back live in the Cathedral again this year! We have some lovely VIPs who have confirmed their attendance as well as some gorgeous contributions promised from schools across North Yorkshire. We are keeping numbers down this year in the Cathedral but the good news is the wonderful Cathedral staff are able to live stream the Service so anybody who wishes to tune in will be able to do so from the comfort of their home/office/classroom!

The theme for the Service to Remember artwork this year is ‘100 Years of the Poppy’ to tie in with the 100th anniversary of the Royal British Legion. When coming up with the theme last year Nickie and I were inspired by this beautiful, heart wrenching poem written in 2015 by 10 year old Bethany Molyneux after she lost her Daddy during his service in the Royal Navy: Why Do You Wear a Poppy Beth? - YouTube      

We asked schools to send us:

  • Photos from your Service children which represent “why I wear the Poppy” – for example a photo of you with your Serving parent or guardian, or a relative who fought for our country in the World Wars/more recent conflicts
  • A large piece of poppy artwork that will stand out in the Cathedral! This could be a large cardboard poppy, poppy bunting, a poppy flag – please feel free to be creative!

I will be sending a follow up email about the artwork soon but please send me across anything you have as soon as you can!

On the theme of Remembrance, I have been contacted by Mr Robin Taylor from Ripon Cathedral, who is setting up a Remembrance Exhibition there this year. He is keen to include the Service child’s voice in this and has asked me to help in collecting some information from North Yorkshire’s Service children.

Remembrance is a time to reflect on those who lost their lives for their country in the World Wars, but it’s also a time we can use to consider how Remembrance is relevant to us today; there are over 3 and a half thousand Service children in North Yorkshire alone, whose lives are shaped by their military experiences. Some of these children might have parents in the military who fought in the Iraq or Afghan War, more recently they may have helped with the COVID-19 effort, or even with the very recent withdrawal from Afghanistan.

I would very much appreciate it if any Service children could fill in this very short questionnaire and return it to Robin Taylor ASAP.

Questionnaire: Service children questionnaire Email to:

The completed case studies booklet from the Festival of Friends project is here and ready to view! It is absolutely gorgeous and contains some wonderful examples of supporting Service children in schools. Festival of Friends Case Studies Booklet

The first SFSG of this academic year is on Tuesday the 13th of October via Teams.  If you would like to be added to the SFSG distribution list please let me know.

I hope the first week back has gone well for all schools and I wish you all a lovely year ahead!


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End of year blog

Posted 21/6/2021

Hello and happy July!

I can’t quite believe we’re coming to the end of yet another academic year! The past two years of being in this role has absolutely flown by and I feel like the global pandemic might have something to do with that (odd as those joyful days of home learning seemed to last a lifetime…) we really have had quite a lot of “normal” life taken away from us.

Another gigantic move away from our “normal” is the very sad loss of Nickie Young in the role of Service Children’s Champion.  I know you’re reading this and I still haven’t forgiven you for leaving me, Nickie!! All joking aside, Nickie has worked tirelessly in improving the wellbeing of our county’s Service pupils and has left such a massive legacy behind her. I think I can speak for all of us when I say how grateful we are for all she has done for our Service families over her years in the role and I will do my best to continue the amazing work she has put into place.

On that note – an update of our work in schools! The Catterick Garrison and Richmondshire schools I’m sure have felt the loss of Nickie over the past few weeks, but the CFSWs who took over some of the ongoing groups up there have done a fabulous job of wrapping up the input for this academic year. I have had a very exciting week so far, handing out goody bags to six different Five Ways to Wellbeing and Wellbeing Warriors groups, which are all ending this week! I think we are all ready for the summer holidays; it’s a very well-deserved break for all school staff and pupils who have had such a tough couple of years adapting to school life during the COVID19 pandemic but have all done such a fantastic job. Fingers crossed for September.

The Festival of Friends project came to a close on the 30th June last month with a fabulous virtual awards ceremony which was held online. A massive thank you to the FoF committee who worked so hard on pulling it all together. It’s been tough at times to keep the project going given all that’s been going on but we had some fantastic and determined schools involved who adapted their projects so well and ultimately contributed some absolutely amazing projects. The results of the FoF project competition were:

Primary Schools


  • Wavell school with Trooper the Tortoise

Runners up

  • Great Ouseburn
  • Linton on Ouse
  • Applegarth

Special mention

  • Le Cateau with the NMKC choir

Secondary schools


  • Boroughbridge High School with Y9/10 Service Children’s Careers Project

Runner up

  • Joseph Rowntree School

A link to the Festival of Friends case studies booklet which includes so many shining examples of good practice in supporting Service pupils will be sent out at the beginning of the Autumn term - something to look forward to for September!

The virtual ceremony itself included campus tours of both York St John University and the University of York, songs from the amazing NMKC choir and videos of the schools’ wonderful projects. We were very honoured to have an appearance from Tanni Grey-Thompson who gave a gorgeous, inspiring speech to the Service children, and Steve Royle (comedian and finalist of Britain’s Got Talent 2019) who provided an absolutely fantastic and lively performance, managing to engage everybody so brilliantly via video call.

If you get any spare time over the summer and would like to watch the recording of the Festival of Friends virtual awards ceremony, you can find it here: Festival of Friends Celebration - YouTube and also at the end of the blog.

The Never Such Innocence project is hosting FREE online poetry workshops for children of Navy families on Tuesday 27th July, children of RAF families on Wednesday 28th July, and children of Army families on Thursday 29th July - all from 4pm – 5.15pm. You can book on to the workshop via Katie Salari Please pass on to anybody you know who may be interested.

The next SFSG meeting will take place on Tuesday 12th October at 9.30am – please email me if you wish to be included in this.

Finally – the planning for the Ripon Cathedral Service to Remember for North Yorkshire’s Service Children 2021 is well underway, with lots of schools already signed up to be involved in the service and some wonderful VIPs already confirmed as attending. Don’t forget to put the date and time in your diaries – Friday 12th November at 1pm – the link will be sent out for the live streaming in the run up to the event!

I am so excited for this year’s theme of “100 years of the poppy”; the artwork and contributions linked to the theme will be absolutely gorgeous and I can’t wait to see what our amazing Service children produce. Please do contact me ASAP if your school wishes to be involved directly in the service.

I wish you all a wonderful summer and I look forward to starting a new year together in September.


Happy June!

Posted 8/6/2021

 Hello and happy June!

I hope everyone has been enjoying this gorgeous weather we’ve been having? We’ve just had a lovely half term week with the kids, made even better by Dan returning from 3 months in the US last Sunday! Nickie and I have recently delivered some training on Service children and families, and one of the things we touch upon is the challenges of the deployment cycle. I find it such an emotional upheaval when Daddy comes home – our routine has been upended, we have to readjust to another person in the house and the kids are wild! It takes a while for things to settle down back into some kind of normality and I know many other families can relate! I am also feeling a bit put out that I have been relegated to no. 2 parent this past week... but it’s definitely to be expected and we are all super happy he’s back!

So firstly a catch up of what Nickie and I have been up to over the past month! We finished a few of our Five Ways to Wellbeing courses which we have been delivering in schools, and it was lovely to give the children their goody bags which included certificates, squishy toys, paper hugs and lots of other lovely things to continue mindfulness and help the pupils put into practice the tools they learnt on the course.

 Word cloud made up of colourful words submitted by Year 6 children as feedback for the Five Ways to Wellbeing course.Word cloud made up of colourful words submitted by Year 6 children as feedback for the Five Ways to Wellbeing course.


We have had some gorgeous feedback from the course, so we hope that means the pupils enjoyed it as much as we enjoyed delivering it! We are looking forward to delivering more Five Ways to Wellbeing courses this half term.

We also have our Wellbeing Warriors course and Anxiety Workshops if you would like to access any of those, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me or Nickie.

The Festival of Friends award ceremony is due to take place this month on the 30th June! We are very much looking forward to it. We have had a look through some of the schools’ projects and videos and we are so impressed with the efforts that the contributing schools have gone to in improving their support for Service children, even with this past year throwing so many other challenges our way!

The Never Such Innocence project has announced the winners of their 20/21 competitions – see the winners booklet here: 2020-21 Winners — Never Such Innocence

They have some extremely exciting news that the winning song (see page 25!) has the go-ahead to be recorded at Abbey Road Studios with some of our fantastic Service children from the Northern MKC choir taking part!!!

Finally, I am extremely excited to announce we have had the green light for this year’s Service to Remember for North Yorkshire’s Service Children at Ripon Cathedral. The theme this year is “100 Years of the Poppy”. Please save the date Friday 12th November 2021! And keep an eye out for more information coming your way very soon.

Hoping these beautiful sunny days continue!



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Ne'er cast a clout 'til May be out!

Posted 6/5/2021

Hello from my sunlit desk – it makes a change, yesterday I had to close the windows because the driving rain and snow were coming in!  It’s a bit different from last May when Jess was commenting on the gorgeous weather!

Everything is a bit different from last year though isn’t it?  We have all had to change the way we work and live in response to the global pandemic, Jess and I have tried to make the work we do accessible even when we haven’t been able to be in schools.  Just in case you were wondering, filming myself reading stories was not something I thought I would ever do, let alone share them on YouTube!  (they’re still available though – please feel free to use them / share them!). I am so glad that the world is starting to open up and things are slowly returning to normal.

I think the impact of the last year will be with us for a while.  Many of you know that my husband is a musician, he has been at home with us since he caught the last pre-lockdown flight from New York to the UK last March.  We have been together for 27 years – I have never spent so much time with him!  It has been lovely but he is very much looking forward to getting back to playing music for adoring audiences and being with people who speak Scottish!  Home at the moment is a bit tense, our son is in the middle of GCSE’s.  Well, what currently passes for GCSE’s!  He has had so many tests, almost daily since he went back to school, it has been stressful for him and us! I can’t imagine how difficult it is for teachers at the moment, they must be exhausted!  I’ve got my fingers crossed for a good outcome for all of us.

The slow lifting of restrictions means Jess and I have been able to get back into schools and work with groups of children presenting our Five Ways to Wellbeing and Wellbeing Warriors.  It has been brilliant!  We have had so much fun working together and working with the children, they are amazing!  At the end of every session we collect their thoughts, this is from Week 2 – Be Active:

Word cloud describing Year 6 children's thoughts about the Five Ways to Wellbeing: Be Active sessionWord cloud describing Year 6 children's thoughts about the Five Ways to Wellbeing: Be Active session




As you can see, Year 6 can be brutally honest!  Which is why we love them! 

During lockdown last year Jess and I collected ‘Coronavirus Chat’s’ from children across the County.  We thought they were so much fun that we’re bringing them back!  The new chats will be published on our website and social media pages soon.

The Festival of Friends project is drawing to a close, we’re looking forward to what promises to be a brilliant Celebration Event on the 30th of June.  VIPs’ Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson and Steve Royale will host the event but the stars will be the schools who have been working on their projects for such a long time now.  I have had a chance to read some of the case studies from the Catterick & Richmond group of schools and I can honestly say I am very glad I won’t be involved in choosing the winning project, I think they’re all brilliant!

Some time ago An Invisible Man Productions toured schools in North Yorkshire with a production written especially for us: Wherever Home Is.  Stephen Burke has been in touch to say that this, and other productions by the company, have been filmed and are now available for schools to use at  There is a ‘about the production’ page on the website which gives a preview of the production, you can then purchase the workshop for use in school.

You may be pleased to hear that bidding for the 2022 MOD Education Support Fund is now open.  This year’s ESF has £3 million to award, and applications can be accepted from state schools, free schools and academies in the UK with Service pupils on roll. Applicants will be asked to provide evidence of exceptional impact of mobility and/or separation and how the funding would help mitigate the effects.  The bidding round will remain open until Thursday 30 September 2021. For more details please refer to the ESF application pack on

Last week it was confirmed that our annual Armed Forces Day for Children event on Catterick Garrison cannot go ahead this year.  Asking 900 children and additional school & military staff to gather together is not sensible in the current climate.  That doesn’t mean that I won’t miss it though!  I think I have told you before it is my favourite day of the academic year!

I hope you all have a lovely month, fingers crossed it gets a bit warmer soon!



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Happy April!

Posted 23/4/2021

Hello everyone and happy April! I hope everyone is enjoying the lovely Spring weather we’ve been having. I know we still need to be taking precautions and being sensible, but I am so excited to be able to get out and about with the kids, seeing family and friends and able to do more things outdoors as the weather gets nicer! Better times are in sight!

A few weeks ago I spoke to some parents of children I am currently working with in schools to check in with how they were doing at home. A lot of the pupils Nickie and I work with 1:1 have a parent on deployment, so a few of those parents were spouses left at home with their partner working abroad. This is a situation I also find myself in at the moment - my husband Dan is currently in San Diego for a 3 month Out Of Area (no, I’m not speaking to him…!)

It’s already so difficult to manage solo, holding down the fort while the children are missing mum or dad, but this past year has made things so much tougher for those military spouses with partners away. I am lucky in that I have family nearby and so have a network I can rely on for childcare and my support bubble. Some parents I spoke to live 100s of miles away from their family and support networks and have found dealing with deployments extra tough.

Even now the restrictions are lifting, I urge anyone who works with Service families or children to check in with how things are going at home – is mum/dad away? How are you all coping? There can be the attitude in the military of just cracking on with things, being strong, not asking for help. It’s the lifestyle – it’s what we signed up for! But sometimes it’s nice to hear look we know it’s rubbish, and we understand it’s not easy. What can we do to help?

Nickie and I are also of course always on hand to provide 1:1 support for any children struggling with a parent on deployment. Little Troopers is a great website for resources Home - Little Troopers , and we also have a “Loss and Separation” information sheet with ideas for activities and useful links to support coping with deployment etc which we can send out on request.

Nickie and I have been really enjoying our Five Ways to Wellbeing sessions online and we have had some fabulous feedback from our first two groups! We are very excited to take these sessions live this term! We will be delivering the sessions together and in person, so we are able to take a full class of students – they don’t all have to be Service kids! We are booked up for the next 5 weeks but please do let us know if you feel that any of your Service pupils would benefit from these sessions. We feel the Five Ways to Wellbeing is best suited to Y5, Y6 and secondary school students.

Our Anxiety Workshops are still available for use in schools:

KS1 Anxiety Workshop – Max Can’t Sleep (5-7 year olds)

Max is a happy boy – that is until bedtime when he can’t sleep.  The video tells Max’s story and introduces the tools he uses to help him overcome his anxiety.  There are lots of opportunities for children to get involved in Max’s story, to talk about their anxieties and try the stretches and breathing exercises that help Max.

KS2 Anxiety Workshop – Caveman Bob (7-11 year olds)

This workshop aims to help children understand where anxiety comes from, why it makes us feel the way it does and what we can do to help us feel less anxious.  There are lots of opportunities for children to get involved, talk about anxiety and try the stretches and breathing exercises suggested.

Please contact me or Nickie if you would like the links and information packs for either of these workshops.

The Festival of Friends project will be concluding with an exciting virtual awards ceremony on the 30th June. All schools involved are working hard on their individual projects and we are really looking forward to seeing the outcomes of all these fantastic projects.

The Festival of Friends committee organised two competitions for students to participate in, with the chance of winning some amazing prizes, I hope you were able to submit some entries!

I was sent over some interesting information about a new Armed Forces covenant grant which may be of interest to some of our Armed Forces communities or schools! Please see the below info:

This programme awards grants of up to £10,000 for community projects that reduce isolation and promote integration; supporting post-Covid recovery in local Armed Forces communities affected by isolation.

Project will need to fit under one of these two main themes:

  • Empowering Armed Forces communities to become more engaged in their local area.
  • Providing opportunities for isolated members of the Armed Forces community to take part in activities that improve general wellbeing.

Round 2 – if you apply by midday on 2 August 2021, you’ll receive a decision in late October 2021.

Round 3 – if you apply by midday on 19 November 2021, you’ll receive a decision in late February 2022.

Full programme information and guidance at

The Never Such Innocence Project would love to host some poetry or song writing workshops in aid of April being the Month of the Military Child. If you would like to arrange a workshop, please contact Katie Salari

Finally, the SFSG met on Tuesday 20th April at 9.30.  Minutes will be distributed next week, please let us know if you would like to receive the minutes or attend the next SFSG meeting and we can send further details.


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Hello March!

Posted 2/3/2021

Hello!  Here we are, March again!  This week I am helping my children get used to the idea of going back to school.  We have three teenagers in Y12, Y11 and Y9 – it’s fair to say this past year has been a rollercoaster for them,  they have missed being in school (although they may not freely admit that!), they have missed their friends and they have missed sports.  Our youngest is a cheerleader, her sport involves getting very close to other people and holding them up both physically and emotionally.  She has missed that closeness, encouragement and the feeling of being part of a team more than anything else that has been taken away from her this year.  I am so grateful that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and things are slowly returning to some kind of normality but that doesn’t mean I am not anxious about what the next few weeks may bring.  I don’t want my children to believe that they are behind and must ‘catch up’.  They have worked hard, attended lessons daily (most of them!) and completed the work set.  They have done their best in a world which has gone totally awry around them.  We are proud of them and while we will encourage them to work hard at school – as we always do – we will also encourage them to meet their friends, be outside and get back to their sports because without good emotional wellbeing they won’t be able to learn well and achieve their full potential.

For those of you in schools I can imagine you’re feeling the same as I am, you’re going to have an influx of giddy, potentially anxious children who have mostly been wearing pyjama’s for the last few weeks!  Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have children and families who would benefit from some extra support, Jess and I would be delighted to hear from you!

It's appraisal season in Early Help which means Jess and I have had to look at our work over the past year and think about how we’ve done and what we could have done better.  Being reflective is difficult, being reflective and positive is even harder - especially after the year we have all had!  I think I can speak for both of us when I say that we will be incredibly pleased when we can meet real people again instead of talking to children and their families online or on the phone!

Last week we presented the first session of Five Ways to Wellbeing, twice!  Jess and I were both pretty nervous beforehand, a lot of our work depends on us being able to read body language and responses so that we can respond appropriately – that’s quite difficult in a Microsoft Teams meeting!  However, the children who attended the sessions were engaged and engaging, we had a lovely day and we’re really looking forward to session 2!  We’d love to offer the sessions to more children and teenagers, If you would like further information about Five Ways to Wellbeing please get in touch.

We’re continuing to support the Festival of Friends project.  The Festival of Friends Celebration Event will be held on Wednesday 30th June 2021 and we’re planning to make it a memorable event with some celebrity ViPs joining us to talk to the children as well as awarding prizes to the winning Festival of Friends projects.  Hopefully we will (virtually) see you there!

The first Service Families Strategy Group meeting of 2021 was held on February 23rd, minutes have been distributed and the next meeting is planned for 20th April 2021.  If you would like to be included in the SFSG please let me know and I will add you to the distribution list.

This term Jess and I have been funded by an emergency grant from the National Lottery.  That grant is now coming to an end and we have to provide a report on the work we have achieved since October.  If you have used the Anxiety Workshops or shared the stories we filmed and are able to provide us with some feedback which we can include in the report we would be very grateful.  We are currently looking at future funding and hope to have something in place for the role from September 2021.

I hope you are all well.  Days are getting longer, the sun is shining and the vaccination roll out is moving at a fast pace – I’m looking forward to seeing you, giving you a pat or a cuddle (depending on how well I know you!) and having a good chat.  In the meantime be kind to yourself and those around you – we’re nearly there!



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Happy February!

Posted 2/3/2021

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:

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

The SCiP Alliance are also offering free virtual training for schools on their brilliant Thriving Lives Toolkit. You can register your place here:

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

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.



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Happy New Year!

Posted 2/3/2021

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!


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