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A brave eight-year-old who battled spinal cancer and defied medical expectations by walking, has been crowned the UK’s Happiest Pupil.

Plucky Callum Carr was awarded the title at the National Happiness Awards on Friday night. Judges picked him because of his unfailing optimism.

Callum, from Luton, was diagnosed with the illness aged three and told he would never walk. His early years were spent in and out of hospital undergoing chemotherapy. Despite the prognosis, Callum was determined and amazed his family and doctors when he took his first steps. He was referred for pioneering proton therapy in the US by the NHS and has now been in remission for five years.

His teacher, Iain Patterson, said: “Callum has overcome many obstacles since he was very young due to his medical needs. Many others would use this an excuse, but he uses it to educate and share his story. He never complains. Even when he’s feeling down he never shows it and he’ll notice other children who are feeling down and will go and support them. His smile is infectious.”

At the London ceremony, which is organised by Laughology the learning and development consultancy behind the pioneering Happy-Centred Schools programme, the UK’s Happiest School and Happiest School Employee were also named. Winners were picked from over 150 entrants by a panel of independent judges.

The Happiest School was named as Fourfields Community Primary School in Peterborough. Judges were particularly impressed by the school’s ethos of allowing children to plan the direction of their own learning. Staff at the school develop creative schemes to make lessons fun and memorable. The school has its own double-decker reading bus which is open each day for pupils. It also has an RHS vegetable garden which grows produce for the school kitchen and gives children hands-on experience when learning about plant life. The school also holds after-hours PT sessions which members of the local community can join.

Headteacher Sue Blyth commented that the award was better than an Ofsted ‘badge’. She said: “We do so many things to make the pupils happy and we wanted to share that, which is why we entered the awards. Academic results are important, but for us they are not the be all and end all. We believe that happy children and happy staff will make learning experiences memorable.”

Happiest School Employee was Natalie Reed from Regents Park College in Southampton. She has helped raise standards across the school by developing a culture of laughter and improvement with staff and pupils.
She said: “It’s amazing to win. I was flattered to be nominated and I’m flattered to have won.”

The National Happiness Awards celebrate the happiest people and places in the UK. They recognise the increasing importance that happiness and wellbeing play in education and business. They highlight the importance of positive initiatives and community engagement. Currently, they are particularly relevant in education, given the high levels of mental health issues among young people and the high numbers of teachers leaving, or thinking about leaving, the profession.

Laughology founder and CEO, Stephanie Davies, said: “We know that when pupils are happy, they learn better and that when employees are happy, they are healthier, more engaged and more productive. The finalists are all doing ground-breaking things in their schools and the results speak for themselves. You can’t exclude happiness in favour of academic results and league table positions because if a school and the people in it are not happy, they will not perform. Happiness isn’t about laughing and joking all the time. It’s about equipping staff and children with the right skills, mindset and behaviours to cope with difficulties, to face challenges and to thrive.”
The awards were sponsored by Simply Better Events and Crown House Publishing and supported and hosted by the Chartered Institute of Professional Development. They were attended by guests from industry and education and raised money for veteran’s mental health charity Combat Stress.

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Nick Harding
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