When Cymbrogi approached me with an idea to develop innovative residential programmes focused on the wellbeing of young people in education (a profession I love) alongside sustainability, creativity and expression, it was a moment that ignited a genuine desire to help. Here was an opportunity to help others make that difference to themselves, each other and the planet. When the opportunity came to join Cymbrogi it was one I simply couldn’t turn down.
Working in education for over 20 years has left me in no doubt that the future is in the hands of the young people we work with in our schools. These are the young minds that will shape that future. Greta Thunberg is a perfect example of how those young people can show the way for all of us and start to make the difference for the generations that follow; their empowerment will have a greater impact on lives and the planet than we can possibly imagine.
According to a Welsh Government report in 2019, four in ten (41 per cent) identified anxiety and stress as a reason for having left the profession. Training to help teachers and senior leaders with wellbeing and stress would be needed to improve retention rates. The National Education Union (2019) noted that a fifth of the profession will leave in the next two years, with 26% of NQTs ready to quit within the first two years.
The implication of staff absences due to stress-related sickness is also significant for schools and school leaders; £40 million was spent on supply cover in 2018. With a constantly scrutinised profession on the verge of burnout due to stress and overworking, it is time to step back and think about what is actually important. It would seem that often the things that are truly important are forgotten. What is important now and in the future? Surely it has to start with tomorrow’s generation.
The Curriculum for Wales, which will be rolled out by 2022 has been considered by many as the opportunity for education and educators to be empowered, set free from previous confines and to be creative, but most importantly to consider 'What Matters?' The development of the Curriculum and the four purposes at its centre, is both timely and significant for the young people of Wales. It's also what lies at the heart of Cymbrogi. But the ‘ethically informed citizens of Wales and the world’, can only be so if they are happy in themselves, with nature, and with others with whom they share their lives; they also need to be able to understand the issues that will shape their futures. Such things can only be nurtured if they are given opportunities and experiences to think and be creative in a collaborative and multi-disciplined way. Educators also need these opportunities to learn and reflect, so that both they, and their learners, are empowered to make that difference.
I believe that Cymbrogi, both its location and ethos, places What Matters at its core: the opportunity to connect with nature, with self and others, and to consider what it takes to sustain a living planet and a thriving community, locally and globally. Taking that deep breath, that pause, to find a sense of being, is not only good for the soul, but for one’s own feeling of self-worth and inspiration. It’s at moments like these, when creativity and confidence can emerge naturally, when one is relaxed and feeling content with ones place in the world.
In my case, my place will be at the heart of something that will be empowering the educators and the young people of Wales to be the best they can be.