Wednesday, 5 March 2008

I met my colleague Anne Lomas, Visually Impaired Team Leader, the other day and Anne told me about Haider, one of her teams many success stories which I wanted to share with you...

"Dear Chris, Following our brief conversation this morning, I am writing to tell you about some amazing work that is going on in the Visually Impaired Team.

Haider is a Y10 student at Ralph Thoresby HS, supported by the VI base staff, and teachers from the VI team. He has never found school easy, and has struggled with aspects of braille and literacy. Unfortunately, he was unable to attend a full 2 days at College from last September, so the VI team have put together a personalised programme, in order to keep him engaged with school, and to promote some of the VI skills that need to be developed. This has taken three routes; Boxing, cycle repair workshops and specialist sports sessions; cycling, cricket.

One of our new teachers, Steve Thompson, who came to us from Royds, had been involved in improving fitness and motivation for sighted students in his former job, through BoxFit sessions. Boxfit is an activity which aims to improve fitness through a variety of boxing skills and promotes a healthier lifestyle and improved self-esteem via the range of activities involved and the social aspect of the sessions. Steve arranged for a coach to come to Thoresby to work with Haider, and then he took up the challenge of weekly coaching. Over a 4 month period, Haider has progressed beyond everyone's expectations. Following a hard session he recounts "My power, speed and balance have improved as well as my confidence": however the benefits and over-arching life skills which Boxfit promotes are also evident, not only to staff who work with Haider at Ralph Thoresby, but also to Haider himself "I like it because it’s taught me about self-control, and if I think something’s hard, then I’ll give it a go now – before I would have just given up". Haider's parents are equally as delighted with the change they have seen in him.

Last Thursday, Steve took Haider to a local gym where he had a training session with a professional boxer, followed by an hour session of boxfit with other sighted students. This gave him the opportunity to socialise with the other boxers and to make contacts and form friendships which may well last for years, and it is this aspect of boxfit which is perhaps the most important to Haider "If you can’t see then it’s unfair that you can’t have a go – I just like having the chance to do the same as everybody else". Simultaneously, the VI team knew that Haider had an interest in bikes, and rode one at home in the street with his friends. Efforts to pursue this via College were unsuccessful, but Eve McLeish, VI teacher at Ralph Thoresby made contact with the Edinburgh Cycle workshop, and persuaded someone to come in and meet Haider, and just have a chat. Before the end of the first session, the bike was stripped down, and it was evident that this was going to be another success. Haider can now strip down and service the brakes on his own bike, and school have found funding for a further 10 sessions. In addition, the person who comes to do the workshops with Haider has persuaded him to visit a residential college for the visually impaired, that runs the only bike course in the country, and he is going to accompany the team on a visit.

Sarah Cross, a PE specialist in the VI team, has been developing and delivering specialist PE sessions for all the visually Impaired young people at Ralph Thoresby, which has included cycling (independently) and cricket. Again, Haider has shone and discovered success and enjoyment. These successes, and many more, are a direct result of the fantastic work that the Secondary team have been doing on personalisation, and the VI curriculum, and our new team plan has more exciting developments. I cannot praise the efforts and commitment of these staff enough, and I invite you to come to Ralph Thoresby to see boxing, and other sports on any Monday or Tuesday mornings. I attach a picture of Haider.

Best wishes. Anne"
It is great to hear stories like this and to see how we can build pathways to excellence for everyone.

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