Head teacher injured training for London Marathon to run again to tackle school's malnutrition
PUBLISHED: 12:00 17 December 2019 | UPDATED: 18:26 17 December 2019
A headteacher campaigning to "break the cycle of malnutrition and obesity" among children in Poplar is to run a half marathon to raise funds — despite a personal knee injury.
Paul Jackson, head of Poplar's Manorfield Primary, has been recovering from his injury training for the London Marathon in which medical professionals said he would never be able to run again.
But he is determined to tackle the Big Half run on March 1 with 350 of his "Team Manorfield" runners to raise money for the school in his deprived neighbourhood of the East End.
"We want to give the children the best start in life", Paul insists. "Many face huge barriers, but we won't use these as excuses — we'll find ways to overcome the barriers so they achieve both academically and in all that they do."
Paul managed to complete two half marathons earlier this year and is now determined to make it a triple in March.
Manorfield is fundraising to complete work on its cooking facilities that began after last year's Big Half run.
"Completing this work is vital to break the cycle of malnutrition and obesity," Mr Jackson adds. "The deprivation has a negative impact on a child's health, wellbeing and ability to thrive.
"This school is in one of the most deprived parts of the country and serves an underprivileged community."
Mr Jackson's road to the 2020 Big Half went off track when he suffered a serious injury to his right knee while in training for the London Marathon.
"Several MRI scans led to medical professionals telling me I would never run again," he revealed. "Life on crutches and not being able to walk properly was not fun.
"But months of physio, rehab and visits to the gym eventually led to the physiotherapist telling me to try a two-minute gentle run. Two minutes became three minutes, three became four and on it went!"
Funds are also being raised to help develop the school's outdoor learning and sports facilities.
Manorfield expanded its nursery intake at the start of the term to help deal with child obesity and to engage more parents to promote healthier lifestyles, using the newly-renovated Teviot community centre in Wyvis Street opposite the school gates.
Development levels for children aged three and four are well below expectations, Paul admits.
Yet the school has been rated "outstanding" after its last Ofsted inspectors' visit.
It has been able to expand nursery classes to tackle special educational, disability and social needs, offering 80 new places free for two-year-olds and three-year-olds for 15 hours a week.
It has also expanded its nursery for older children up to four years old with 90 full-time places for 30 hours a week, to "give youngsters a better start in life".