RGS staff sing the praises of training day with a difference

Helen from Prima Music in Ripon led singing workshops

STUDENTS benefit when a school looks after its staff. That was the message from Ripon Grammar School teachers and support workers as they enjoyed a series of healthy, relaxing, creative and energising activities at an innovative training day.

The afternoon’s pursuits ranged from meditation and yoga to dance classes, physiotherapy, massage, singing, alternative therapy consultations and a didgeridoo workshop, all provided for free by supportive local businesses.

In addition, teachers led baking, clay pot and wet felt making, cycling, walking, climbing and badminton sessions and the school opened an informal ‘Happy Café’, with home-made cakes and biscuits.

Aimed at promoting wellbeing while exploring ways in which staff can be supported in the increasingly pressurised world of education, the event, which followed training sessions on metacognition and memory recall, was praised as ‘inspirational’ by many who attended.

Food and nutrition teacher Louise Solden, who ran a bread making workshop, applauded the pioneering initiative: “Everybody is happy, it is about feeling valued and wanted,” she said.

“Teaching can be a stressful job, but if we are happy and relaxed then children are too, because they pick up on our vibes and moods. If we feel good about ourselves that comes across in the classroom. With all the constraints put on teachers and education, this is a great strength of the school."

Mindfulness expert and author Gail Donnan said it was inspiring to see a school understanding the effects of stress on staff and supporting them with activities to help connect with each other while alleviating and managing stress levels.

Mrs Donnan, who led a meditation session at the event, added: “Teaching and life today are very different to how they were only a few years ago. We are now very competitive and time-pressured. The key is to be educated about stress, to understand that it is an integral part of human survival, while managing its effects with wellbeing techniques.”

Teaching assistant Clare Davies, who enjoyed massage, singing and jive dancing classes, agreed: “Staff need looking after as well as students and it's lovely that this is being recognised. It's also a brilliant opportunity to try different activities we may well want to continue in the future.”

Deputy head Helen Keelan-Edwards, who organised the event, said good mental health and wellbeing were essential for high productivity and outcomes, with engaged and cared-for staff much better able to fully support the pupils in their care.

“Teaching is an extremely rewarding yet challenging profession. And we need to ensure our staff - who dedicate so much time and effort to delivering a rich and engaging curriculum - are happy and have good mental health. It is important to care about their welfare, as well as the welfare of students.”

Many enthusiastic participants said they hoped the initiative could be developed further. Director of music Edward Seymour, who made bread and enjoyed a walk along the Ripon canal, said: “It has been wonderful and should be in the timetable every half term.”

He added: “If you enter the profession with any sense of passion for your subject, it is inevitably going to be a stressful job. But it has been relaxing to spend time with colleagues and not have to talk about work.”

Design and technology technician Stuart Whitehead, who is new to the school, agreed. He deliberately chose activities, including singing and jive, which he’d never tried before.

“I have got to know a lot of other members of staff and seen things in a new light,” he said. “People have been excited and talking about it, it’s very positive and inclusive, the sort of thing which puts a smile on people’s faces.”

Physics teacher Liz Green, who signed up for a physiotherapy assessment and having her hair curled, said she was extremely appreciative: “It’s brilliant. Teaching can be very intense at times and if we can’t take care of ourselves we can’t take care of students. We always put students first, and that’s the way it should be. But we don’t want to do it to our detriment.”

Teaching assistant Carrie Prideaux, who enjoyed climbing and yoga classes, summed up the afternoon: “We rush around all day and don’t really have time to sit and chat and relax and do fun things, it can be quite a stressful environment. But this is fabulous, a good bonding experience which has boosted everyone’s morale and taken our mind off day-to-day things.”

Staff enjoying the didgeridoo workshop with Christian from Sound Journey

James from White Diamond Dance studios led a popular cha-cha-cha and jive dance lessons

Nicola Lymer from Exhale Fitness led rejuvenating yoga sessions 

Staff benefited from physiotherapy sessions with Fitback of Harrogate

Mrs Henson led a creative clay pot-making class

Helen from Kelly Teggin Hair and Beauty in Knaresborough styled hair during the afternoon

Carole Hilton-Stone offered soothing massages

Staff explored which natural health treatments might benefit them, with consultations provided by Ripon Natural Health Centre

Sandra Shackleton used kinesiology to test for allergies

Staff enjoyed playing badminton with their colleagues and also had a go at climbing

Many baked delicious loaves of bread, with the help of Mrs Solden

Louise Johnson taught staff how to create colourful baskets and bowls using wet felting

Gail Donnan, author of 'The Gateway: A journey to reclaim your power from stress and anxiety', ran meditation sessions

Some of the raffle prizewinners pictured above

Thank you to all those in our local community whose generosity and support throughout the afternoon helped make our hard-working staff feel extremely valued. We are grateful to:

Carole Hilton-Stone – The Garden Treatment Room, Dalegarth, Bedale Lane, Wath HG4 5ER W: carolehiltonstone.co.uk T: 07737 037248

Exhale Fitness Yoga - Facebook: Exhale fitness T: Nicola Lymer 07950 673 975

Fitback Physiotherapy - Spring House, rear of 5, Franklin Mount, Harrogate HG1 5EJ T: 01423 608080 E: admin@fitback.co.uk

Kelly Teggin, Hair and Beauty - 8 Castlegate, Knaresborough, HG5 8AR W: kellytegginhairandbeauty.co.uk E: kellyteggin@hotmail.co.uk T: 01423 864874

The Mindfulspace Wellbeing Company - Canal Wharf, Bondgate Green, Ripon W: mindfulspacemeditation.org T: 07957 663704 Gail Donnan’s book ‘The Gateway – A journey to re-claim your power from stress and anxiety’ is available from www.gaildonnan.com

Prima Musica, Ripon - E: primamusica@btinternet.com T: 01765 690686

Ripon Natural Health Centre - 27, Market Place, Ripon HG4 1BN W: riponnaturalhealth.co.uk T: 01765 601447 E: enquiries@riponnaturalhealth.co.uk

Sandra Shackleton KFRP Kinesiology - T: 07597 566867 W: www.hk-uk.co.uk

Sound Journey by Christian – E: sound.journeybyChristian@gmail.com T: 07849 861713

White Diamond Dance Studios - W: whitediamonddancestudios.co.uk T: James 07977 042970 E: james@whitediamonddancestudios.co.uk

The Bruce Arms - 2, Main St, West Tanfield, Ripon HG4 5JJ W: www.thebrucearms.com T: 01677 470325 E: thebrucearms@nichenosh.co.uk

Hummingbird Holistic Therapies - Woodlands Chiropractic Health Centre, 15a Woodlands Drive, Harrogate HG2 7AT W: hummingbird-holistics.co.uk T: 01423 819555 E: Katy@hummingbird-holistics.co.uk

Jo Malone - 3, Prospect Crescent, Harrogate HG1 1RH T: 0370 192 5991

Nuffield Health and Fitness - Hornbeam Park Road, Harrogate, HG2 8RA: W: www.nuffieldhealth.com/gyms/harrogate T: 01423 593879

The Pancake House - 1B, High Street, Pateley Bridge HG3 5AP T: 01423 313435

Pure Skin Lab, Harrogate - W: pureskinlab.com E: info@pureskinlab.com T: 01423 623660

Swinton Country Club & Spa -Swinton Park Hotel, Swinton, Ripon HG4 4JH W: swintonestate.com T: 01765 680900 E: reception@swintonestate.com

Raffle prizes kindly donated by local businesses:

£20 voucher from Hummingbird Holistic Therapies

A dance lesson for two with White Diamond Dance Studios

Sunday lunch for two at The Bruce Arms

A voucher for therapeutic massage with Carole Hilton-Stone

£20 voucher for The Pancake House, Pateley Bridge

Sound Journey by Christian CD

Book: ‘The Gateway – A journey to reclaim your power from stress and anxiety’ by Gail Donnan

Hamper of natural products from Pure Skin Lab, Harrogate

Mindfulness Woodland Walk, Swinton Park Spa

3-month gym pass for Nuffield Health and Fitness, Harrogate

A free kinesiology consultation with Sandra Shackleton