Climbing Durham Director Scafell Pike

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A HEAD teacher praised a campaign to improve physical and mental health through the power of walking – and urged other schools to get involved.

Denise Thompson, Principal of Ravensworth Terrace Primary School in Birtley, County Durham, has spoken after climbing England’s highest mountain with four of her team as part of The Big Smile.

The Big Smile is a series of 50 fully guided fundraising walks – organized by a charity called The Walk and Talk Trust – aimed at improving physical and mental health.

Proceeds from the campaign, which covers five northern counties, are used to provide free walking shoes to underprivileged children and adults.

Denise offered her staff the chance to participate in the initiative and she was joined by three teachers and a teaching assistant on a nine-hour ascent of Scafell Pike, in the Lake District, led by expert guides Keiron Young and Richard Ellis.

“We are a school that passionately believes in the physical and mental health benefits of our children by being active and adventurous by developing a love of the outdoors.

“Our staff are role models for children and The Big Smile has been a great way for us to bond as a team and inspire children. We wanted to challenge ourselves, and what better challenge than climbing England’s highest mountain? ”

Ms Thompson admitted the climb had proven difficult, with each staff member facing different challenges, but said the results were worth it.

“It was a great experience, with great support throughout the process, and I got to know my staff better than ever,” she said. “The big smile is an amazing idea and I would definitely recommend it to other schools for team building. ”

The Ravensworth Terrace Primary School team – consisting of Danielle Johnson, Donna Mitchinson, Jess Antcliffe and Kayleigh Fada – raised £ 573 by participating in the Scafell Pike walk and Denise raised an additional £ 250. She is now planning to join the High Cup Nick Walk in Cumbria on August 10.

Keiron Young said, “It was a tough day in the hot conditions, but what was great to see was how the staff set an example for their students and showed what can be done. They did it brilliantly.

“We are really keen to develop the charitable side of schools during the Big Smile and beyond, and Denise and her team have perfectly illustrated the benefits. ”

The big smile started at Raby Castle on June 21 and will culminate with a circular walk from Durham City on August 27.

* So far, 15 schools have registered to participate. Anyone interested in getting involved should visit www.bigsmileuk.co.uk

* To sponsor Keiron and Richard in their offer to complete the 50 Steps, please visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/thebigsmile.

* For other ways to support the association, including through a text donation, visit www.bigsmileuk.co.uk/support-our-team.

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