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Academics from the University of Plymouth have created a new Girlguiding badge designed to inspire the next generation of podiatrists across the UK, as well as deliver life skills during lockdown.

The Step up challenge badge includes activities ranging from compiling a ‘foot first aid kit’ to making foot-shaped scones, and has already been taken up by hundreds of Girlguiding members in and around Plymouth.

The podiatry profession – a branch of medicine devoted to the study, diagnosis, and medical and minor surgical treatment of disorders of the foot and lower limb – has seen fewer university applications nationally in recent years, despite its strong employability prospects. So Dr Sally Abey, the University’s programme lead for Podiatry, came up with the Girlguiding challenge badge as a way to break down barriers.

The badge has a strong wellbeing angle too, with all of the activities designed to be done independently amid COVID-19 restrictions, or done in a group.

The University of Plymouth runs a Podiatry Degree Apprenticeship, getting people into the profession while earning and learning.

The new badge project was funded by Health Education England and the project was run by Karen Reed, Academic Outreach Manager on the University of Plymouth Podiatry programme.

The badge design incorporates the South West Promotion of Podiatry with Health Education England (HEE), as well as the Allied Health Professional blue circle with pink spots which is used across the country to promote allied health professionals.

Following the badge’s early success with Girlguiding Plympton Division, another 1,000 badges are now being made to launch the initiative nationally. 

The Plymouth team is hopeful that more people will be keen, with Girlguiding leaders from Kent already showing interest. 

Step up Girlguiding challenge badge 

Dr Sally Abey said:

“Podiatry is a fantastic career but there is a national shortage of people entering the profession. On top of national recruitment campaigns I wanted to do something to help address that. I think some people are a little reticent about working with feet, so by breaking down barriers and getting people to think about feet in a different way, this seemed like a really good solution to sow the seed for a potential career. Most importantly in the current climate, the badge can be done remotely, so the girls are able to complete it amid COVID-19 restrictions.”

Karen Reed said:

“We’ve designed the badge to go right across the Girlguiding sections, from six-year-old Rainbows to teenage Guides. The activities are hugely varied and educate about wellbeing, feet and podiatry without making it obvious – it’s all based on feedback from the local Girlguiding units. I actually became a podiatrist after getting blisters on my feet on an expedition with the Venture Scouts and deciding I needed to know more. So it’s fantastic to go full circle and work on a project like this, and we’re delighted with how successful it’s been already.”

Laura Parker, Division Commissioner from Girlguiding Plympton, said:

“Working with the University of Plymouth on this badge was really fun, there were so many great ideas of foot themed activities. It’s been great to see the girls learn a bit more about feet and how important they are. We have played fun games and made feet shaped foods but the girls have also gained a new love for their own feet all online! It’s an easy way to pamper themselves and self-care is so important right now. We are hopeful the girls will continue to care for their feet and maybe even consider a podiatry career.”

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