Brian Padden: National Health Mentor of the Year 2017

No year would be complete without a look back on the highlights of the past 12 months. One moment to remember in the Evolve calendar was the August Awards Ceremony and the crowning of a new National Health Mentor of the Year…
My typical day will begin when I arrive at school at 8am. There is already a tingling of activity around the entrance as children are being dropped off by their busy working parents.  The staff bid each other “good morning” while attempting to swipe in without dropping a box of marked books from the previous evening. The staffroom is already abuzz with talk of lessons, rotas, planning, lunchtime cover, assembly and a million other things that go on every day in a busy two-form entry primary school.
I quickly make myself a coffee and head for the school hall, for my ‘Wake and Shake’ breakfast sports club. I usually have around 15 – 20 children ranging from year 3 to year 6 for 25 minutes before the start of the school day. I quickly register them and get on with the activity. Dodgeball is a favourite, but I vary the activity to include different sports and games. If we are efficient we can get twenty minutes of moderate movement, which means by the time they sit at their desks they have already accomplished a third of their daily recommended activity.
When the school bell goes to start their day, I begin my mentoring sessions. I mentor around 15 children altogether, mainly in Key Stage Two. The sessions are around twenty minutes long and are bespoke to cater the individual’s need. Some of the children I support need help with controlling emotions and anger is a common problem. Others are dealing with a childhood trauma such as bereavement, parents’ separation, or it could be anxiety or low self-esteem from a non-specific cause. As a qualified counsellor, I incorporate counselling skills into the sessions wherever possible.
Mentoring children, especially boys, gives them the speaking skills to talk about concerns and worries. I always make sure they know that in speaking out they are being brave and not weak. Even after all the years I have been a mentor, I still get days when the responsibility of being the person a child trusts enough to ‘speak their hearts out’ is both terrifying and humbling. Every mentoring session is followed with an email to the class teachers and SLT so they are aware of what is being covered in the sessions, and any safeguarding issues that arise.
The morning is over in a flash, and the lunchtime animation session begins. I am on the school mountain bike track with a dozen children, all on school bikes whizzing around the bends and bumps. I have organised a rota so there is an equal use of all years groups and both boys and girls. Meanwhile, the ball court is a frenzy of activity with two football games taking place. Elsewhere children have basketballs, tennis balls and other sports equipment – another opportunity to get children physically active is being seized, with very few children sedentary. It is a heart-warming sight.
The afternoon is spent delivery P.E. and a chance for the less academic children to shine! It is also a chance to develop social skills throughout the class – teamwork, self-improvement, problem-solving and resilience are always promoted heavily in my PE lessons.
My final activity of the day is an after-school club. Sometimes it is a sports club, other days it can be group games.
As I finish for the day and head out of the building, to the sound of, “see you tomorrow, Mr Padden”; “Thanks, Mr Padden”; “Goodnight, Mr Padden”;  I am reminded of three things. Firstly, it is a long, long day for such small children, we see much more of them than their own parents and being a Health Mentor is the most rewarding job in the world.