An essential aspect of our culture of safeguarding is supporting our children with developing the knowledge, self-awareness, strategies and resilience to nurture long-term positive mental health. There are several aspects to this and we are continually looking for ways to further enhance this provision.
We want our children to grow into young adults who are in tune with their emotions and carry with them practical techniques that they can use to regulate and express their feelings. If they are able to do this, they will be well placed to thrive on the many challenges and opportunities their future will present. We hope the impact of this will extend far beyond their time in primary school.
We offer the Paws.b Mindfulness Curriculum to children in Years 4 to 6 as a series of 12 sessions, led by accredited Paws.b facilitator Astral Blanchard.
The course develops:
- Skills for greater happiness and well-being
- Strategies for relaxing and finding peace and calm
- Healthy coping strategies for stress, anxiety and every day worries
- Better focus - supporting learning, behaviour, performance and decision making
- Improved relationships with peers, teachers and family
- Understanding ones own mind and what makes for a happy and healthy person.
Each session brings to life a different theme of mindfulness; pupils learn simple practices and techniques that they can use in their every day lives.
Outdoor Play and Learning
In 2016 we were awarded the OPAL (Outdoor Play and Learning) Platinum Award for the quality of our play provision.
Platinum is the highest level of accreditation OPAL offers and achieving it places us in the top 25 schools nationally for play. It was noted that the Playpod (funded by the PTFA) provides an abundance of creative play opportunities, that the environment is used very effectively to provide a range of play settings including space for quieter play and ‘enclosed’ play, and that our play policy enables our children to engage in ‘edgy play’, managing the associated risks with confidence. Some of the additional activities such as the fire pit and arts and crafts in the Spiritual Garden were also praised, and our most recent addition – the stage – was noted to be of huge benefit, providing additional and versatile play space.
As well as our daily play experiences, every year we have a Healthy Body, Healthy Mind week, the climax of which is Joy Day - a day of fun, friendship, risk-taking and creativity to celebrate the joy of being together. In other words - PLAY! We find that on Joy Day the children demonstrate our other core values of Love, Courage and Creativity in abundance.
Anna Freud Inspire Project
Our children have been learning relaxation techniques thanks to an Education for Wellbeing Programme called the Inspire Project. The project, led by the Anna Freud National Centre for Families and Children, is part of a large scale government-funded research project into supporting well-being in schools and St Stephen’s is one of 370 schools across the country taking part.
The children in years 4 and 5 are enjoying daily relaxation sessions led by their teachers who have each been trained through the project. It is already having an impact, with one of our Year 4 children enthusing “I love it! It’s one of the best things, it’s nice and calming. It gets me ready for the afternoon.” Another bit of feedback we have received is “It makes me feel calm, like all of my emotions can flow out. It helps me when I do my work because I’m relaxed. I can do my best work because I don’t need to worry.”
One of our girls in Year 4 reflected that “I feel like when we started doing it, I stopped worrying. It has helped me with my worrying”.