Virtual headteacher for care experienced children nominated in national Teacher of the Year competition

04/06/2024
Holly Robertson with Dylan Atkins at the Promise Conference

A VIRTUAL headteacher for care experienced children and young people in Aberdeenshire has been nominated in a national Teacher of the Year competition, led by Miconex and sponsored by group collecting platform GiftRound.

As virtual headteacher for care experienced children and young people in Aberdeenshire through The Promise initiative in Scotland, Holly Robertson has implemented Promise Groups in 28 primary and secondary schools across the county, supporting around 250 children. These groups allow children and young people with care experience to access fun activities and build a community together.

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The Promise is Scotland’s commitment to care experienced children and young people that they will grow up loved, safe and respected. It was introduced in the country following the Independent Care Review in February 2020, as a plan for change to improve the outcomes for children.

Holly Robertson was nominated to be Teacher of the Year by her colleague Michelle Podlensy, who said:

“Holly always goes above and beyond and has a great relationship with the children and young people in each Promise Group. The groups are highly beneficial, and give the children an extra link to an advocate who understands their experience, who recognises their achievements, and who can ensure their voice is heard.

“For the children, being heard and having a say in what happens to them in school, and after school, is the most important thing. Holly is always up for a challenge and is determined to do anything she can to ensure that each child or young person with experience of care is nurtured, safe and respected. At a recent event, the children gave Holly 11/10 for how much she has done for them.

“Each Promise Group has a facilitator, who is usually based in the school, which Holly arranges, and she has a strong relationship with school staff too to ensure they receive appropriate training to help care experienced children and young people. Holly has made a real difference to how The Promise is seen and understood in schools across Aberdeenshire. By supporting schools and school staff, Holly is helping children to achieve a positive destination.

“Holly is also heavily involved in securing funding and creating opportunities for the children and young people to get involved with fun activities such as residential trips or events, where they can meet with their ‘corporate parents’–  organisations or individuals that have a responsibility for care experienced children and young people – such as a recent event at Castle Fraser. This helps the children to be a part of the community in a positive sense, helping them to make decisions and connections as they move towards adulthood.

“It would be fantastic to see Holly receive the Teacher of the Year award for their work she does for children and young people with care experience from across Aberdeenshire.”

Holly, who started off her teaching career as a history teacher before becoming a guidance teacher and setting up the very first Promise Group in Huntly, said:

“When I set up the very first Promise Group, we spent a whole term getting to know each other. It was a mish mash of young people who wouldn’t ordinarily be together and we set about finding experiences for the group which would bring them together and really build on their confidence and sense of achievement. Now we have 28 Promise Groups and I’m even looking at setting up groups for early years because early intervention is so important. The Promise Groups are never about therapy or talking about the past, but about providing high interest experiences, from film making to drama, photography and art.

“As part of a drama project in one Promise Group, we took the children to the theatre to see the Life of Pi and the kids said ‘next time Holly, we’d like to go skiing’, so we linked with Live Life Aberdeenshire and took the children skiing and cycling. It’s important that the children’s voices are at the centre of everything we do.

“The impact of the Promise Groups on the children is positive. We hold big exhibitions to showcase the children’s work and they are brimming with pride. I’m in a wonderful position in that I get to see the transformation in the children, from being nervous, filled with self-doubt and dysregulated to being confident in what they can do and so proud of what they have achieved.

“Last year, as part of a script writing project, we collaborated with the Light The Blue festival. We took the children to performing arts venue The Lemon Tree where their scripts were performed by professional actors. Light The Blue then came back and presented the children with their published scripts.

“As children approach fourth year, people start to ask young people what they want to do. The Promise Groups build life skills as well as supporting attainment. For example, one young person did a photography project and really had an eye for it, the project showed her the subject existed and boosted her confidence hugely, so much so that she took a photography course at college.

“I admit that I got a bit weepy when I heard I’d been nominated as Teacher of the Year. It is so rewarding to be somebody who can provide amazing experiences for young people.”

It is free for people to nominate their Teacher of the Year and all types of teachers are eligible including primary and secondary school teachers, higher education teachers, early years teachers and special educational needs teachers in the UK. The Teacher of the Year competition runs until the 31st August 2024 and the winning teacher will be announced in September 2024.

The teacher who receives the most votes will be crowned as Teacher of the Year in the national competition. The Teacher of the Year, and their school, will each win a £500 Town & City Gift Card or Scotland Loves Local Gift Card of their choice, such as the Aberdeenshire Gift Card. One person who nominated the Teacher of the Year will also win a £250 local gift card.

Miconex’s local gift cards can be spent with local businesses, encouraging a ‘shop local’ ethos and locking spend into local economies.

Colin Munro is the managing director of Miconex and said: “The best thing about our Teacher of the Year competition is hearing stories about local heroes like Holly who are dedicated to creating positive opportunities and experiences for children and young people. The impact that teachers make shouldn’t be underestimated. If you have 2 minutes to spare today, please take a moment to nominate your Teacher of the Year.”

The Teacher of the Year competition is sponsored by group collecting platform GiftRound. Founded in 2018, GiftRound gives people an easy way to collect money for various occasions, including end of term gifts. Town & City Gift Cards are available to buy on the GiftRound store.

Craig Forsythe, CEO & founder at GiftRound, said: “We’re delighted to sponsor the Teacher of the Year competition so we can bring recognition to the many hard working teachers across the UK and Ireland. Teachers’ gifts are amongst the most popular collections on GiftRound so we know how appreciated teachers are by parents and children. We hope that people take this opportunity to nominate a teacher that has made a positive impact on their child’s education or their school community, and we look forward to celebrating with the winner of the Teacher of the Year in September.”

Nominate a teacher in the Teacher of the Year competition at teacheroftheyear.co.uk

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