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…from our board
Elaine Kerridge is Policy Manager (Participation And Engagement) at Children In Scotland. She has been a Board Member of Fast Forward since May 2016.
I liked school. Is that strange?
I really enjoyed my English and Religious Education classes especially. However, as writer Alan Bennett wrote “The bits I most remember about my school days are those that took place outside the classroom”. The memories of my school days that endure the most are all the ‘extra’ activities – the discos, the trips, the shows, the time with friends.
I suppose what I liked most about school was the sense of community – we were all in the experience together. I knew my teachers wanted the best for me, not just academically but for me as a whole person. The teachers I connected with the most had a great knowledge of their subjects but were also approachable and kind and had a sense of humour. Whilst my peers were looking up to Ian Rush and Madonna, these teachers were role models to me.
I had an epiphany in sixth year that I could continue to enjoy being part of a school community if I became a teacher. Perhaps I too could be a role model and be the one to foster a sense of belonging in others. And drink coffee. And tell terrible jokes.
So, putting all of the above together it probably comes as no surprise that I became an English teacher initially, then moved on to be a full time Guidance (Pupil Support) teacher and taught in West Lothian for over 18 years. And I did tell terrible jokes, but I just could not get into drinking coffee.
The joy of the job of course was working with young people, both in the classroom and across school as a whole. Like my own school days, the enduring images I have of my teaching years are of the bonding moments when spending time with young people, being part of their school journey. I hope I was able to be a positive influence on their academic career but also, more importantly, on their personal development.
There were of course tough times, challenging situations, sensitive conversations around the young people’s health and wellbeing; perhaps physical health, or sexual health, emotional or mental health. I believe we are very lucky in Scotland that the education system recognises that good health and wellbeing is essential for learning and for happy lives and that this is the responsibility of all teachers. Young people of course need support for ALL of these aspects of health and all teachers play a crucial role in this support.
I believe that supporting and promoting young people’s wellbeing is a key factor in improving attainment for all and closing the attainment gap. When a school puts the health and wellbeing of its pupils and staff at its centre then everything else falls into place more easily.
Partnerships with organisations such as Fast Forward are an essential part of supporting and promoting the health and wellbeing of young people. I have seen effective partnerships have a really positive influence on young people, on their learning and their wellbeing.
Fast Forward’s strengths are our young people-centred learning approach, our promotion of peer education and an inter-active and needs-led delivery. At the heart of our work is the fact we enable young people to make informed choices about their own wellbeing and to live healthier lifestyles through the real life experience of young people today.
I really enjoy being a Board member. At every meeting we hear exciting news about the positive impact Fast Forward is having on young people’s lives across Scotland. I feel privileged to be in this position and work with such a strong group of professionals. Through my teaching experience and my current role at Children In Scotland I hope I am to able inform Fast Forward’s current work and future developments by amplifying the voice and experience of young people.
And I still don’t drink coffee.