Yeading Junior in Hayes has evolved its strategy for putting emotional health and wellbeing at the centre of the curriculum. Headteacher Carole Jones describes how
In my five years as head of Yeading Junior, we have sought to embed emotional health and wellbeing into our school: for our staff, our children and our whole community. We have done this out of a conviction that wellbeing is closely linked to achievement. If you don’t feel good, you certainly aren’t going to do very well. We wanted the children to feel confident, so that they could face the challenge of learning.
Our journey started with a teacher who knocked on my door as I took over and asked whether we could run a Pyramid club in school. I knew nothing about Pyramid; so she told me about her experience of running clubs as a volunteer. In the subsequent five years, we have supported over 160 children through Pyramid clubs. We have Pyramid in Year 3, Year 5 and at transition in Year 6. Next term we are going to bring our Year 2 children in so that we can identify their needs and get to know them before they join us. Seven teachers have become Pyramid volunteers, and we have Year 6 children as assistant club leaders.
For me the most important thing when I started was to give our children a voice, so as to build the self-confidence that they lacked.
We did that by giving children opportunities to take part. Year 6 children act as assistant club leaders with Pyramid (see ‘Gemma’s story’, below). We also have school monitors and a lively pupil forum which undertakes a large number of decisions that feed into decisions made by the senior management team and governing body.
There is never a day that there is not a note under my door saying ‘This would help’, ‘This would make a difference in our school’. Asking children to answer questions such as ‘What makes a a good learner?’, ‘How could you get better as a learner?’ has helped them become good at self-evaluation.
Our learning mentor has a worry box outside her room. If a child has a concern, he or she can go and see the learning mentor, or can put their worry in the box. It is very precious to me. In one particular instance, a worry was put into that box which revealed a very serious situation. I am grateful it was there.
Our healthy schools manager is that young teacher who came knocking on my door. I have appointed her as children’s champion. She has a finger in every pot to make sure we are doing the right things for our children.
Our senior leadership group has a curriculum team and a strategic team. The latter is made up of myself, my deputy, the inclusion manager and the healthy schools managers. That tells you where I think wellbeing fits in the wider scheme of things.
I recently asked the students ‘What makes us feel better at school?’ They said:
- Out-of-hours learning activities, Pyramid and other after-school clubs help us to feel cared for and enable us to concentrate better.
- Breakfast club and booster club support learning and help us achieve our goals.
- Being kind and complimenting people makes us feel confident, proud and encouraged. The learning mentor and playground friends are people we can talk to.
- Parents are supported in school and help us to learn.
- The community, advice and support team help us to be happier and get on with our work. SEAL boosts our social skills.
I see the promotion of wellbeing as being about putting together a series of puzzle pieces, made up of our children, our staff, the agencies we work with and the community around Yeading Junior. We are an extended schools journey. Bringing in specialist services to work with our children has given teachers a better understanding of what children are about. That improves motivation, as well as behaviour.
Gemma went to Pyramid in Year 3. Lots of things happened in Gemma’s life between Year 3 and Year 6. In Year 6, she started to feel very uncomfortable in a class that she was in. Her parents came to talk to me. We developed some strategies to make her feel better. These included Gemma becoming an assistant leader at Pyramid.
‘Pyramid helps build children’s confidence’, says Gemma. ‘It helps them find new friends. Children who attend become livelier. They talk more to us. After the club, we, the assistant leaders, talk with adults about the children – how their behaviour has improved. We observe whether they play with each other, whether they join in games, whether they help with the art activities. It makes me feel quite special.’
‘I enjoy helping the children. I want to make sure they are more confident by the end of Pyramid. I am more confident now, when talking to the adults, and doing activities with the children. I feel I can talk to my teacher now.’
Her teacher has commented that Gemma is more willing to contribute and has made big improvements to her learning. Gemma says this is because people have listened to her and enabled her to become both happier and more confident.
Pyramid helps primary school-aged children to fulfil their potential in school and in life by building their self-esteem and resilience. It works through local partnerships of statutory and voluntary agencies.