Early on in the pandemic, we recognised that looking after our students’ well-being was going to be central to the recovery of our community and the mitigation of learning loss. Many of our students were, and are still, dealing with a range of issues during unusual and difficult times and so mental health has never been higher on the agenda. We have made huge developments in this area in response to our students’ evolving needsand we ensure that our learners are offered access to a range of wellbeing activities. Some of these are outlined below:
Class-charts Well-being Check-in
We have added this feature to Class Charts to allow students to tell us how they are feeling on a 5 point scale, and to allow us to track and monitor the well-being of individuals and groups of students. If students feel they need extra well-being support in school, or just someone to talk to, this is a quick and easy way for them to reach out and let us know. At any time, a student can use this check-in to alert us to a well-being issue and they will be seen by a member of the Well-being Team that same day. We also ask all students to check-in twice a week, before 9am on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Again, anyone who indicates they are ‘struggling’ or ‘feeling low’ will be spoken to by a member of staff the same day and appropriate support will be put in place. You can view a more detailed explanation of this system here.
Whole School Well-being Survey
Twice a year, we conduct a comprehensive whole school well-being survey. This is aimed at identifying longer term problems that students may be dealing with in school, as well as trends among groups of students. Identified issues are dealt with firstly by our Learning Coaches, with further support or referrals being put in place where appropriate.
Our Learning Coaches work closely with students to identify social and emotional barriers to learning. They provide regular, bespoke support as well as assessing need and making further referrals where appropriate. Students can refer themselves for Learning Coaching, or teachers can make referrals for initial assessment where they perceive an issue.
The content of PSE (soon to be Health and Well-being) lessons and assemblies adapts flexibly in response to current issues, directly addressing predominant well-being needs that have been flagged by students or identified by staff.
The Baxter Project (dog therapy)
In the midst of lockdown, we engaged the Baxter Project because we wanted to give our most vulnerable learners access to targeted well-being provision, mindful that students' existing mental health issues would likely be exacerbated by the pandemic. At that point, we were inviting students with well-being issues into school to access the provision. Since then, the Baxter Project has become an incredibly effective part of our wellbeing approach, as well as an integral part of our school community. Our first visitors, Roo and her owner Sam, proved so successful in engaging even some of our most reluctant pupils that we have now taken on a second therapist, Zarreen, and her dog, Jake. We now have a Baxter therapist on site three days a week. The Baxter Project taps into the special bond between animal and child to create important and valuable relationships, and a safe and effective context for therapy. Students look forward eagerly to their sessions and the wider school community enjoy seeing the dogs around the school. You can find out more about the project here.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
This year, we have engaged Jason Clark, of the Behaviour Therapy Clinic, to work with students experiencing emotional and/or behavioural challenges. Jason is on site two days a week and he helps students to understand why they are thinking, feeling or behaving in certain ways and gives them strategies and tools to apply in order to overcome the challenges they are facing. Student feedback has been incredibly positive and we have had a number of self referrals based on word of mouth among students. You can learn more about Jason and the Behaviour Therapy Clinic here.
Support for Parents and Carers
We have extended our well-being provision to offer support to parents and carers whose children are experiencing behavioural or mental health challenges. Parents are able to contact Jason Clark directly to discuss their concerns and, if appropriate, arrange a programme of support funded by Bryn Celynnog. You can find more information here.
The Flourish Project
The Flourish Project is an eight week, group workshop which has become a popular and effective part of our wellbeing provision, as well as a valued part of our school community. Student feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with the weekly sessions providing a safe and welcoming forum for students to nurture their self esteem and well-being while forming connections with students outside of their own friendship group. We have seen improvements in pupils’ outlook and confidence since their engagement with the project, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Flourish Project long into the future. You can find out more information here.
The Advocacy Project
As part of our whole school approach to health and well-being, we have begun to develop a number of volunteer 'advocates' on the staff to build up expertise in areas of emerging or increasing need. These advocates are supported to undertake professional learning to consolidate their own knowledge and understanding with a view to becoming an in-house expert.
Advocates are not required to provide support groups or counselling for pupils; they will be a source of guidance for staff and governors and will deliver occasional talks/assemblies to cohorts as part of the Health and Well-being curriculum.
We are currently developing advocates in the following areas:
- Improving mental health (including self image/self esteem, self harm and suicidal thoughts, stress and anxiety)
- Understanding sexual relationships (including sexual health, consent, media representation, sexual violence)
- Tackling racism in schools
- Promoting disability rights
- Promoting LGBTQ+ equality
- How to support transition and gender diversity
- Human Rights (UNCRC)
Our students are always best served by approaches designed for them by the teachers who know and care about them. Developing in-house expertise in this way will be of great value in providing them with the support they need (and providing us with the tools we need in order to do so).
Additional, regular well-being practices include: