Battling Covid-19 through Cofight-19
Nick Dyson, director of creative enterprise at Francis Holland School, Sloane Square, reflects on the success of Cofight-19, an initiative launched to provide much-needed support for children and their families during the pandemic.
Suddenly schools were forced to close their doors amidst suspected cases of Covid-19 and teachers moved online into a world of Zoom and Teams. The corridors of Francis Holland, Sloane Square, fell pretty much silent overnight, with just a few members of staff supporting children of key workers. I was fortunate to have one final, face-to-face (remember those?) meeting with our headmistress and it was during this meeting that Lucy Elphinstone and I dreamt up the 19-day bounce-back campaign, Cofight-19. We wanted to utilise our unique FHS network to provide practical expert advice from trusted therapists and psychologists for all parents, along with peer-to-peer support for young people and innovative and creative activities for families.
The Cofight-19 campaign aimed to offer, remotely, the pastoral care, creativity and energy that Francis Holland, Sloane Square prides itself on. Julie Johnson (experienced parenting expert and therapist) and Gavin Drake (psychologist) were quick to join our team of volunteers. Julie offered supportive podcasts while Gavin shared some of his Mindspan content. Mentoring company Ludowide also jumped in and were instrumental to the campaign's success. With their extraordinary energy and ability to think outside the box, company leaders Charis Elphinstone and Joe Alexander donated not only their Ludowide Messyman mascot to the project, but also brought their company values of creativity, curiosity, compassion, flexibility, playfulness and most of all resilience. Then, Early Years companies Boromi and Musical Dots joined the team along with STEAM Co. and Meetwo, who offer online peer-to-peer support for 25,000 young people and are recognised by the NHS for their work. After three Zoom calls, we were in a strong position to provide free structured support for families.
Having developed a clear vision, BBC 5 Live wanted to cover our launch on 1 April at the beginning of the school Easter holidays. With everyone in lockdown we were able to engage Jos Buttler (England cricketer) and his wife Louise as ambassadors, along with double Olympian Mark Hunter and GB hockey player, Sam Ward, who provided Sam’s Skills Sessions daily. The campaign gathered momentum on social media and support followed from the Centre for Mental Health, Schools Together, the Girls’ Schools Association, the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust and Youth Sport Trust, and Coram Beanstalk. Creative and innovative activities included a poetry challenge with World Slam Poetry Champion, Harry Baker, coffee art with FHS teacher, David Edes, drawalongs with artist Emma Winterschladen, and drawing challenges with Young Contemporary Artist of the Year, Millie Syuu Chi. We were also delighted to partner with Richard Browning of Gravity Industries for a ‘design a course’ competition and Kitchen Academy chef, Jethro Carr. One of the many highlights for me was the ‘design a restaurant’ competition created by Year 5 and 6 pupils at Spire Junior School in Chesterfield. Each Cofight-19 day was then wrapped up by an illustrator’s interpretation of the day by Jess Grant and a wonderfully entertaining podcast by our group of actors.
For us, the campaign shows just how many people are willing to collaborate on projects which support families and their children. We will certainly look to harness the impact this network has had across the country. We were grateful to feature on a BBC 5 Live session aimed at providing support for parents, and received some wonderful support and feedback from Rae Snape (Head at Milton Road Primary in Cambridgeshire): “Cofight-19 is a brilliant initiative bringing individuals and organisations together to promote good mental health at this very difficult time by inviting everyone to collaborate, to get creative, to get active and to #FightTheFear!”
Meanwhile The Youth Sport Trust said: "This has been a brilliant campaign @Cofight19. Thank you for helping to #fightthefear". Parents contacted us through our website: "This is an incredible platform and built so quickly. We appreciate your efforts and look forward to using the site." "Brilliant idea 💡 We need to show how ordinary people are doing the extraordinary!" "Please keep doing what you are doing. Best wishes." "Your campaign is really amazing and we’ve been loving all the stuff you’ve been putting out. It’s obviously been helping lots of children and families, so keep it up!"
Francis Holland has an incredible network and we were so grateful to all our contributors for so generously coming on this journey with us – it was so important for us to be able to reach out to schools of all types across the country as we united in fighting the fear and forging a positive future together.
All resources are available on the Cofight-19 website: www.cofight19.com and the campaign can be re-visited on Twitter and Instagram: @CoFight19.