Olympian Alison urges children to reach for the stars

HANDS UP Rowing Olympian Dr Alison Mowbray with pupils from Padnell Infant School in Cowplain. (123054-5620)
HANDS UP Rowing Olympian Dr Alison Mowbray with pupils from Padnell Infant School in Cowplain. (123054-5620)
The Highfield Campus at the University of Southampton, which is home to the George Thomas Building. Picture: Geograph

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WITHIN us all lies a spark of greatness.

That’s the inspiring message being taught to children who are being encouraged to reach for the stars and fulfil their dreams.

And who better to give this message than an Olympian?

Alison Mowbray was a self-confessed sporting disaster at school and was always the last to be chosen for teams.

But at the age of 26, while working as a science teacher, she decided to pursue her love of rowing.

Through sheer hard work, her dreams came true in Athens in 2004 when she won a silver medal in the women’s quadruple scull.

More than 250 children at Padnell Infant School in Cowplain were captivated as the 41-year-old told her amazing story of determination and triumph.

She got the children active by getting them to do rowing exercises with their arms on the assembly room floor.

The Olympian launched an innovative scheme at the school called Be The Best You Can Be.

Headteacher Michelle Petzer said: ‘It was fantastic.

‘She mainly goes to secondary schools, but she certainly pitched it at the right level for them.

‘She was very enthusiastic and had so much energy it was phenomenal.

‘It was just inspirational to hear her speaking to the children about how it felt to compete in her first Olympics.

‘It was very much about raising aspirations – that children can achieve anything, they just have to put their heart and soul into it.’

The school launched the scheme after Mrs Petzer attended a headteachers’ conference and met David Hemery, who won Olympic gold in the 400m hurdles in Mexico in 1968.

He is behind the Be the Best You Can Be Scheme, which has been taken up by scores of schools across the country.

Padnell’s PTA raised £2,500 to pay for teaching aids to bring the initiative to Cowplain.

Over the next two terms children will be taking part in fun activities aimed at raising their aspirations.

Activities include a dream wall, where children are invited to write down their ambitions in life.

Mrs Petzer said: ‘We get so many government initiatives about literacy and numeracy.

‘But raising children’s self-esteem and self-belief can be a crucial part of them accomplishing things.’