A HEAD teacher has praised a campaign aimed at boosting physical and mental health through the power of walking – and urged other schools to get involved.
Denise Thompson, head of Ravensworth Terrace Primary School, at Birtley, County Durham, has spoken out after climbing England’s highest mountain with four members of her team as part of The Big Smile initiative.
The Big Smile is a series of 50 fully-guided fundraising walks – organised by a charity called The Walk and Talk Trust – aimed at boosting physical and mental health.
Proceeds from the campaign, which covers five counties of the north, are being used to supply free walking boots to children and disadvantaged adults.
Denise offered her staff the chance to take part in the initiative and she was joined by three teachers and a teaching assistant on a nine-hour climb of Scafell Pike, in The Lake District, led by expert guides Keiron Young and Richard Ellis.
“We are a school that believes passionately in the physical and mental health benefits of our children being active and adventurous by developing a love of the outdoors.
“Our staff are role models for the children and The Big Smile was a great way for us to bond as a team and to inspire the children. We wanted to challenge ourselves, and what better challenge than climbing England’s highest mountain?”
Ms Thompson admitted that the climb had proved difficult, with each member of staff having to overcome different challenges, but she said the results were worth it.
“It was such a great experience, with tremendous support all the way, and I got to know the members of my staff better than ever,” she said. “The Big Smile is an amazing idea and I’d definitely recommend it to other schools as a way of building team spirit.”
The Ravensworth Terrace Primary School team – comprising Danielle Johnson, Donna Mitchinson, Jess Antcliffe and Kayleigh Fada – raised £573 by taking part in the Scafell Pike walk and Denise has raised an additional £250. She now plans to join the High Cup Nick walk, in Cumbria, on August 10.
Keiron Young said: “It was a challenging day in hot conditions but what was great to see was the way the staff set an example to their pupils and showed what can be done. They did brilliantly.
“We’re really keen to develop the schools’ side of charity during The Big Smile and beyond, and Denise and her team illustrated the benefits perfectly.”
The Big Smile started at Raby Castle on June 21 and will come to a climax with a circular walk from Durham City on August 27.
- A total of 15 schools have so far signed up to take part. Anyone interested in getting involved should go to bigsmileuk.co.uk
- To sponsor Keiron and Richard in their bid to complete all 50 walks, please go to justgiving.com/fundraising/thebigsmile.
- For other ways to support the charity, including by Text Donation, go to bigsmileuk.co.uk/support-our-team.