Grand Tour by Elisabeth Skinner MBE – East Midlands

11 October 2022

Feeling slightly unwell from my booster jab, I still set off to see Eliza Hill in Leicestershire and Sharon Pyke in Nottinghamshire.  About three miles from home, the car made some funny noises so I pulled over to look under the car – perhaps a twig was caught and scraping on the ground?  I couldn’t see a problem.  Should I ring the RAC, try to reach my repair garage in Gloucester, or just go home?  Still not sure, I set off towards the city – the sound had now gone.  I kept going and was soon on the M5 heading north.  Two hours later, despite a headache and mild temperature, I drove into Quorn, north of Leicester and parked behind the village hall.

I found the council office in an old school with a community-run library and a Green Flag park of which the council is justly proud.  I briefly met Eliza’s colleagues before we decamped to the café in the same council-owned building to discuss Eliza’s experience of Level 4 (Year One).  I congratulated Eliza on her excellent video created for a group assignment on the module Building Community.  The group created a game called Communityopoly to demonstrate their understanding of community development.  This was a huge achievement given that the students were located in different parts of the country.

Eliza and I chatted for an hour about her assignments, her councils (she has two) and other aspects of her story.  I then left her to pursue the day job and set off for a half hour drive north to meet Level 5 student Sharon at her home in Cropwell Bishop in Nottinghamshire.  Having survived a dire experience at another council, Sharon is currently a locum clerk, dropping in to support councils between the departure of one clerk and the arrival of another.  I was given a lively greeting from Sadie, the Airedale dog, but then we tackled a list of questions that Sharon had prepared for me.  First, I helped her to make her report on sustainable development more concise and hopefully reassured her that the report was already very good.  With all questions answered we set off on a walk through the village as far as a new development that had caused a bit of a stir but was now settling in.

I headed home down the A46, amused that the road a couple of miles from Cropwell Bishop is also the A46 a couple of miles from my Gloucestershire village over 100 miles away.  I was totally wiped out by the time I got home but was pleased to have seen Eliza and Sharon – students 61 and 62 visited this year.

A week later I went to Bicester to meet up with student 63, Linda Marshall, clerk of Thrapston in Northamptonshire.  Linda was away when I passed within reach of Thrapston (twice), so she suggested meeting half-way – hence a 90 minute chat over two cappuccinos in Tesco near Bicester.  We found so much to discuss from her background as a legal secretary, her assignments, her family, and her experience of the course at Level 5.

I have a student in Lancashire that I am hoping to visit before the National Conference but there are three students who had to cancel my planned visit because something else turned up – including Covid. If you are planning to come to National, you might start trying to guess how many miles I have driven while visiting students from Cornwall to Norfolk and from the Kent coast to the Wirral.  I called on students in Northumberland and South Wales but went by train so I’m counting only the drive to and from the station.  You will be able to enter the competition at the professional development stand.

At the time of writing, I have raised just over £1500 in sponsorship.  If you have been thinking about contributing in support of our new educational charity, then now is the time to do so as the Just Giving page will close on 30 November.  We would be really pleased if we could reach £2000.

Click here if you would like to contribute to my Just Giving page.

By Elisabeth Skinner MBE. Follow her progress on Twitter – @lisabethski.

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