Uckfield primary school makes mental health a priority

Harlands Primary School is putting emotional well-being at the heart of everything it does, giving it the same importance as English and maths.

Head teacher Richard Blakeley said the curriculum would be adjusted to help create a mentally healthy school where pupils and teachers can thrive.

Harlands Primary School children are pictured with Wealden Council chair, Cllr Pam Doodes, and head teacher, Richard Blakeley, during their Well-Being Week.

His pledge follows a Well-Being Week held at the school where many lessons and assemblies focused on mental health.

Children were given opportunities to recognise, talk about, and learn to regulate their feelings at a time when emotional well-being has become an increasing problem in the UK, with up to one in four people now being affected by mental health issues.

Importance

And Mr Blakeley said afterwards that as a school Harlands recognised the importance of the need for the children’s emotional development to be assessed and become valued as highly as the development of other skills.

Mr Blakeley said the week began with children being instantly engaged with activities beyond curriculum specifications.

Children across all year groups – nursery to Year 6 – were able to integrate, be expressive, talk, and have fun, in line with the school’s core values.

Thrive

The school has two trained ‘Thrive’ practitioners, Jo Draper and Julie Hiscox and they visited each class to explain the ‘Thrive approach’ and the targeted work they do.

They work with the support of class teachers helping children and their families to develop healthy, curious minds, and happy, confident and creative children.

Children in Year 6 commented on their Thrive lessons saying: “I like achieving new goals and being a better person” and “Thrive makes a lot of children feel less lonely”.

Support

Another pupil, having benefited from class and one-to-one support lower in the school, from Mrs Hiscox, said: “Thrive makes me feel ok to talk to other people about my problems.”

Local clinical psychologist Richard King talked to children about the work he does, how minds work and how to stay mentally healthy.

And local author Jason Rhodes shared his book Imagine Eating Lemons. This introduced children to mindfulness, drawing their attention away from thoughts of anxiety, and into the present moment in order to be calm, engaged and ready to learn.

Work together

Wealden Council chair Cllr Pam Doodes spoke at an assembly about the importance of listening to others and how to work together to help the community.

Mr Blakeley said that staff had already seen the positive effect the week had on the children, hearing them talk openly about their emotions and seeing them practise the taught strategies for self-regulation.

One member of staff said she had seen improvements in the children’s work.

Benefits

The children also enjoyed the week and saw the benefits. One child in Reception said: “Mental health week was brilliant. I liked the author who came in because if I feel sad, I can rub my hands together and breathe.”

A child in Year 1 added: “Mental Health Week made me happy and I think more about other people’s feelings.

Mr Blakeley said: “It is clear that these skills will help the children to become responsible and happy citizens in society, enabling them to also support others to do so.”

See also:

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