With more and more children struggling with mental health difficulties nationwide (latest figures from Young Minds suggests that one in six children aged 5 to 16 were identified as having a probable mental health problem in July 2020), we have put greater emphasis on the support we can provide in school. We are working hard to help children to learn and understand more about their own mental health and how to look after themselves.
In school, this is achieved through:
The teachers and school staff
School staff are receiving ongoing training to help them in supporting children with their mental health. A number of staff have received ‘Mental Health First Aid’ training, as well as more specialist training in issues such sleep, trauma and attachment, play based approaches to wellbeing, emotional literacy and resilience. There are a group of teachers in school that make up the ‘wellness and safeguarding’ team, who work together with a focus on mental health and wellbeing in the school.
We believe that children should be provided with opportunities to learn about their own mental health (and the link to living healthy lives) and also to have opportunities to learn about the wider issues around mental health. This is always delivered in a way that children can understand and access. This includes:
We also hold whole school events throughout the school year, with a focus on mental health. Such as Arts Week, special assemblies and focus on ‘World Mental Health Day’.
The recovery curriculum project
Following the coronavirus pandemic, we have been working hard on a ‘recovery curriculum’. We felt that it was important to consider the impact of the lockdown and school closure on the mental health and wellbeing of of our children and how we can help them to resume a normal (or new normal) life, with a focus on developing coping strategies.
We completed a number of tasks throughout the last academic year including children creating a happiness box which contains objects which make them happy. The children have also planted bulbs which help them to look forward positively to the future.
We continue to support children with their mental health when working at home due to isolation, signposting resources such as mindfulness activities and having regular contact with school staff.
Clubs, groups and interventions
We offer extra-curricular clubs which support children with their mental health; such as ‘Sunshine Club’ (nurture group), Yoga and ‘Change for life’ club; and a large range of sports clubs.
The Family Support Team
Mrs Dixon, Stella and Katie, our family support worker team, are available all week to provide additional support for children and their families. This can include working 1:1 with children, to help them with problems (such as dealing with friendship issues, anger management, parental separations), group work with a focus on particular needs (e.g. self esteem, dealing with emotions, bereavement) and also with their families, such as signposting to other agencies who can provide support in the home. More information can be found by clicking here - https://www.coalwayjunior.co.uk/family-support-team/
The Pastoral Suite and outdoor reflective space
We are currently developing a new Pastoral Suite. The aim of this space is to provide a safe, suitable environment for children to come to work with school staff and other support agencies around their mental health and wellbeing. We are lucky enough to have a private room for small group work, one-to-one work and meetings and also a larger space for other activities such as Yoga. We are also developing an outdoor reflective garden space called 'The Garden of Hope'.
We are very proud to be part the Gloucestershire Trailblazer programme, working in partnership with Young Minds Matter. We are one of only 72 schools from Cheltenham, Gloucester and the Forest of Dean who offer this service. Through this programme, we are able to link up with specialist mental health services in Gloucestershire, to offer support tailored to the needs of the children. This can cover issues around anxiety, friendship issues, low mood and exam stress. School staff can also work with parents to try and access further support through TIC+ (teens in crisis) and CAHMS. We have a designated educational mental health practitioner who we meet with regularly and who can help with providing this specialist support.