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Raising Awareness about Epilepsy at Bell Baxter High School - a work in progress.

Bell Baxter High is the largest school in Fife and one of the largest in Scotland. It has 1800 pupils. Speaking to 1800 pupils about epilepsy is no easy task and so drama teacher, Kirsty Simcock, has organised six early morning sessions in total, enabling the Muir Maxwell Trust story to be shared with each year group. These sessions run back to back and move at quite a pace, with between 100 and 300 pupils filing in and out of the assembly hall each time. Our final sessions take place today, when I will share our story once again, this time with S1 and S2 year groups. 

Epilepsy is a big and complex subject. Sharing the details of that subject in just 15 minutes, whilst at the same time, capturing the essence of my personal story about Muir, is quite a challenge. In fact, it evidences the scale of the challenge that speaking in schools about epilepsy has presented for me over the last seven months. Every school is a little bit different, the context in which the school chooses to accommodate the presentation varies considerably, as do the available time slots. My original presentation has been adapted to fit over a dozen times now. 

My shortest time slot was precisely 8 minutes - my longest an hour. Some of these sessions are more intimate than others. On one occasion I lead a discussion tutorial with just four senior pupils. In Kirkwall in Orkney I took to the stage in the new Orkney Theatre and addressed nearly 300 senior pupils. Speaking to twenty to thirty P4-P7 primary school children is my personal favourite and the one at which I think I am best at. 

I can imagine that the idea of a 15 minute assembly in the subject of epilepsy is not very inspiring but at Bell Baxter I aim to make it so. Of course, I am a Mum on the Run for Epilepsy so that story in itself makes for an unusual introduction and then it is straight in to 'epilepsy'  it's history, diversity, complexity and scale, before I share a little bit about the work of the Trust. The success of the session however, lies in the last 4 minutes when I read my own piece 'About Muir' written 3 years ago as I kept vigil by his hospital bedside on his 14th birthday. Behind me is an image of Muir playing with bubbles in our garden. I almost know this piece by heart now and it enables a heartfelt rendition on my part, with considerable eye contact with my spell-bound listeners. I wish I could photograph their faces for you to see - the intense level of concentration as they process the reality of Muir's life and our life caring for him, is in itself a picture to see. Every time, you could have heard a pin drop. 

Thank you S6 form pupil, Natalie Guy for introducing us to your most impressive school. Thank you Kirsty Simcock for allowing us this opportunity to raise epilepsy awareness amongst your pupils and share the Muir Maxwell story. Thank you Bell Baxter for listening and for following, as many of you are now doing on Facebook and Twitter and on our website. 

I very much look forward to my final visit to this school today.

'Ann was amazing, she connected with the young people from the beginning. Her delievery was outstanding and her personal story was touching, very emotional indeed. Pupils were visibly moved by her words. It is clear to see throughout her presentation that she is a woman who truly is committed to her trust, a heart warming speaker who was able to communiucate effectively to a wide range of young people.'
Kirsty Simcock, Teacher 

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