Students at The Wellington Academy in Tidworth got a lesson in overcoming barriers when Paralympic swimming champion Liz Johnson dropped in to support the school’s Celebrating Diversity Day.

The Wellington Academy, which is part of the Royal Wootton Bassett Academy Trust, suspends the standard timetable on several days throughout the academic year so the entire school can explore topics connected to values, wellbeing and culture. Celebrating Diversity Day was the penultimate values day before the summer holiday.

“We’re in a diverse society here in Tidworth, and our students come from diverse backgrounds, which is a point that is often made when we ask students and families for feedback,” said senior deputy headteacher Rob Wood.

Athlete Johnson said: “It was really great to see the enthusiasm of the students for understanding and experiencing differences.

“I really enjoyed the opportunity to answer their questions and help them reflect on their experiences throughout the day as they developed an empathy for barriers that exist, and also recognise the opportunities and potential that every individual has if they are accepted for who they are by themselves and others.”

Sophie Norrish, head of Year 8 and values curriculum coordinator who organised the day, said students were very excited to see that Liz Johnson stayed for the entire day and that they were able to have one-to-one chats with her.

“Students were able to have a go at wheelchair basketball, thanks to sessions which were delivered by Sports England, and many said that was their favourite element. But others told us that they really value that they can talk openly about topics such as LGBTIQ+ and feel supported by the school.”

Scarlett, a Year 9 student, said: “I really enjoyed listening to Liz Johnson’s life story.”

While Sharon, also of Year 9, said: “I enjoyed today, it gave me a sense of what life would be like if I was disabled. Overall it gave me loads of experience and therefore I loved it.”

Year 10, who because of the pandemic have not been able to do the usual work experience this year, spent the day working on careers, aided by The Army who talked to them about employability skills and took them outside to experience field-based team building activities.