By Debbie Kinsella
4 June, 2021
Debbie Kinsella, lead practitioner for enrichment (character education and Duke of Edinburgh), discusses her role at the Trust and why enrichment matters...
I’m very aware of how your experiences and opportunities growing up shape the person you then become. My hometown of Liverpool, coupled with the influence of my older brother, were certainly pivotal in setting me on a football-loving path, which you could see as my early steps towards becoming a PE teacher.
However, it was through school and the encouragement of my favourite teachers that I really began to expand my horizons, taking part in all sorts of extracurricular activities. By the time I left secondary school to go on to study A-levels, not only had I achieved academically, I had also performed in school productions, and taken an active role in student voice activities, such as the student council and anti-bullying ambassadors. In a sporting capacity, I represented the school in a variety of fixtures and competitions in netball, rounders and football and won the National Cup playing football for Liverpool School Girls.
It was these chances to do something different, beyond the curriculum, that really helped me figure out who I was and what I liked, and I know that many of us who now work in education will have had similar experiences. I firmly believe that engaging in a wider curriculum and enrichment offer develops the whole person and essential character traits that set us up for life, which is why I’ve always been passionate about ensuring young people have access to these opportunities.
After university I became a PE teacher, and secured my first teaching post in The Wirral that also incorporated being a school sports co-ordinator for a cluster of schools in the area. Since then, I have had many wonderful roles and experiences across the north-west, including Head of House and Summer school co-ordinator in The Wirral, deputy head of PE in Chester, head of PE in Liverpool before experiencing many roles over the last five years at Sandymoor Ormiston Academy in Runcorn – roles such as DofE manager, head of year and finally assistant principal.
Across all of these roles I put a focus on what would help those individual young people to grow and how I could provide that for them, and throughout my career I have offered opportunities for children to attend many trips and visits, from outdoor adventurous residentials, Duke of Edinburgh expeditions and reward trips to theme parks, to international water sports and ski trips, all of which aim to expand horizons and raise the aspirations of young people, giving them experiences that will be remembered throughout their lifetimes.
As you can imagine, when the role as lead practitioner for enrichment at OAT came up, I knew it was a great fit. My own background growing up as a child eligible for free school meals in an area of social and economic deprivation makes me feel very passionate about championing the disadvantaged and ensuring that there is an abundance of enrichment and personal development opportunities available to all of our young people, and that socio-economic status is not a barrier to participation.
I want to allow all young people to have what I have experienced and more with regards to the wider curriculum offer, as it is this wider informal curriculum that will make a measurable contribution to all aspects of the whole pupil in terms of knowledge, skill, social and emotional development, life skills and experiences.
I began my new role in February with the aim being to kickstart enrichment and social action again within our academies, after the third national lockdown, by linking enrichment uptake to gaining an internationally recognised award.
Many school and community activities have been unable to take place for many months, so we presented our academies with an opportunity to sign up to a Bronze Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) pilot programme to deliver the award to the whole of Year 9. We’ve had a brilliant response across students, staff and the wider community, who have all been eager to adapt to restrictions and participate in any way that they can.
Ormiston Bolingbroke Academy, Ormiston Park Academy, Sandymoor Ormiston Academy and Ormiston Meridian Academy were the first on board and have just completed the enrolment of the cohort with the aim of completion within six months.
The Award involves young people committing to developing a new skill; engaging in physical activity to maintain good health; volunteering in the community and then planning and completing an expedition. It has had to be adapted in light of the pandemic, so for example in the skill section students can be recognised for tracking and logging activities at home such as baking, arts and crafts, playing an instrument. These new ways of doing things are really positive in helping students to take more ownership over their personal development.
Since joining OAT, I’ve already been able to see the impact across our academies of a Trust that really champions expanding horizons for students, and I’m very happy to be a part of it. I am excited to work with and support our academies across the family in reviewing and expanding their enrichment offer and developing character education, whilst also ensuring activities are purposeful and can lead to further opportunities and experiences for young people.