IT: Head raises funds for school and injured troops

4th September 2009 at 01:00
Former soldier takes to the sea for round-Britain fundraiser

Original paper headline: Special head goes overboard for IT

What's the best way to prepare for the busy school year ahead? Most headteachers probably relished a few weeks of rest or the chance to see family and friends.

But Eddy Jackson has never been a fan of the quiet life. The head, who served in the army before becoming a teacher, is so incensed by what he considers inadequate provision for children with special needs that he staged an unusual protest to raise thousands of pounds for both his school and for troops injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr Jackson, head of Highfurlong School in Blackpool, a specialist centre for pupils aged three to 19 with physical and mental disabilities or complex learning and communication problems, spent over a month windsurfing around the UK to raise pound;10,000.

The 58-year-old felt provoked to launch the expedition, which made enough cash to buy a slew of IT equipment for his pupils, because, he says, it is "incredibly hard" to get resources from the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

Mr Jackson hopes that the adventure will also develop his leadership skills and inspire everyone at his school, currently rated outstanding by Ofsted.

The trip was not without drama. Mr Jackson, who served in the Royal Green Jackets in the Middle East and Northern Ireland until 1975, when he trained as a teacher, witnessed a freak accident which killed a kite- surfing instructor and had to battle with high winds and waves - all on a pound;60 board and pound;70 sail he bought on eBay.

His route took him from Walney Island in Cumbria to Morecambe Bay, then on to Scotland and the Isle of Cumbrae in the Firth of Clyde. Next were Southport, Crosby, and then a separate trip to Gosport and the Solent. He sailed for up to four hours a day, followed on land by a minibus which picked him up after each day's trip.

"We are always desperately short of resources, and I chose to do this because pupils in my school were very keen to access the internet," Mr Jackson said.

"Despite the Bercow review on speech and language therapy, which put pressure on local authorities to improve, nothing has been done."

Mr Jackson's supporters can opt to donate to the school or Help 4 Heroes. The servicemen's charity is close to his heart: he was wounded during his Army career, and his father was shot while serving in the Korean War during the the 1950s.

"Teaching is a stressful job, so you've got to make sure you live your life to the full," said Mr Jackson, who regularly helps to crew tall ships during school holidays.

He developed a love of water sports as a child in Southampton, where his school placed emphasis on physical activity.

PE is also a strength at Highfurlong, where pupils can do water sports. "I was lucky to have those opportunities and I want my pupils to experience them too," he said.

Doing it for the kids

Running across one of the most inhospitable places on earth to complete the challenge of a lifetime, Exeter teacher Paul Ruff's first thoughts were not about water or food, but his pupils thousands of miles away.

While Mr Ruff, head of PE at St Peter's School, trekked 151 miles across the Sahara last year in temperatures of up to 49C, pupils kept his spirits up by sending him good luck messages. Their support inspired him to complete the six-day Marathon des Sables, regarded as one of the toughest races on the planet.

The 33-year-old covered the equivalent of more than five regular marathons across rocky terrain while carrying all his food and equipment.

Ron Hauser, known as the "Canvas Cowboy" in his native US has spent the past week creating oil paintings in St Charles West High, St Louis, in a bid to raise cash for art supplies. His daughter, Julia Miller, is an art teacher at the school, which has been hit by local budget cuts.

Mr Hauser has been painting a St Charles West sports team mascot and says if donations reach $500 (pound;300), he will give the framed painting to the school. He runs a campaign called Painting for a Purpose to fund horseriding therapy programmes for disabled children. His Travelling Western art gallery has visited 13 states.

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