Alex Winstanley always had a passion for sport and knew he wanted to make it his career. Now a PE teacher at Ormiston Chadwick Academy in Widnes, he is putting the skills and techniques he learned at Edge Hill into practice every day.
I had a great time at Edge Hill and I tried to get involved with everything and get as much out of my time there as I could. I was very sporty; I played for the university Rugby League team – going on tour with them was fantastic. In my second year I was lucky enough to go to Ghana with the International Development through Excellence and Leadership in Sport (IDEALS) programme. I delivered coaching sessions to Ghanaian children, which really improved my teaching and leadership skills as well as my confidence.
I’d been interested in disability sport since college and I always tried to choose modules at Edge Hill that would build my skills in this area or give me experience of working with people with disabilities. While I was studying, I also volunteered as a personal carer for Embrace Wigan and Leigh, a charity that supports people with disabilities, and I still volunteer for them today.
I got the job at Ormiston Chadwick Academy quite soon after graduation and I’ve been there for four years now. I think the practical experience I got at Edge Hill prepared me well for real-life teaching. I really enjoy my job, especially as I’ve recently been appointed Assistant SENCO, which means I get to make a real difference to our students who need additional help to achieve their potential.
I am extremely passionate about promoting the abilities of people with perceived ‘disabilities’. I recently started a blog, Happy Smiles, to get people to focus on the things people with disabilities can do, rather than what they can’t – to see beyond the disability. It was inspired by my friend Haydn Smith, who has cerebral palsy and is one of the most positive people I’ve ever met. The blog features photos, stories and videos of people with a range of abilities chatting about their lives. It has reached more than 60,000 people to date and keeps on growing!
My dream is to combine the two things I love – teaching and promoting inclusion. I’d love to travel and meet as many people as possible to share their stories and aspirations on the blog. Ultimately, I’d like to start running workshops in schools, alongside people with disabilities, to allow students to meet people like Haydn and get them thinking differently about disability.