A Birmingham school has stepped up its pastoral offering this half term in a bid to tackle issues of child anxiety and mental wellbeing within their pupils.
Hallfield School in Edgbaston has welcomed both children’s author Juliet Clare Bell and an organisation called Mindful Beginnings to visit the school and work with children on confidence boosting exercises and mindfulness techniques.
Every Monday Clare carries out an array of confidence boosting exercises with Year 4 pupils at the School as part of their English lessons.
Clare said: “I’ve been brought in to show children that it is OK to make mistakes and not everything has to be perfect all the time. Mistakes shape who we are and we learn from them.
“The idea of the project is for the pupils to work with me, a published author, and see that my journey in life and to publication is riddled with mistakes! I want them to understand that we have to jump many hurdles to get to where we want to be in life and that really is OK.
“We are all a work in progress and my aim is to encourage people to take risks and make mistakes –using practical and fun exercises. It’s a fantastic way of learning.”
The six weeks will culminate with the plucky nine year olds utilising the skills they have learnt from Clare to step out of their comfort zones and conduct an assembly in front of their teachers and peers.
To coincide with Clare’s offering, Rachel Tame and Keelie Woodward from Mindful Beginnings have been conducting interactive sessions with the school’s Year 5 pupils, which are designed to engage young minds, and teach a distinct mindfulness skill.
This six week programme, which takes place during PHSE lessons on Wednesdays, is an introduction to where the mind is and how to train it to be in present moment.
Rachel said: “Throughout the course we’ll be recognising worry, looking at sleep, training our attention and discussing ways to deal with all sorts of difficulties. We’re also giving the children an introduction to basic meditation and breathing techniques.
“When speaking to the children about what is most important to them we found family to be high on the list so we’re hoping that when they go home in the evenings they’ll be able to share some of the mindfulness techniques with their parents, brothers and sisters.
“They also mentioned that exams were one of the most stressful things on their minds so we really want to help them manage this stress to the best of their ability.
“Some children will get lots from this but if they leave with just one mindfulness technique that they can use forever then it’s all worth it.”
All three specialists have a background in Psychology and have worked with adults as well as children.
Mrs Eve Kirby, Head of Pastoral Care at Hallfield School, said: “The average age of people with anxiety has dropped considerably and statistics show that one in ten young people experience a mental health issue so we wanted to start tackling the issue with our children.
“We are constantly looking at the different ways to incorporate wellbeing into our curriculum as it is such a big issue in today’s society, particularly with young people.
“Children in Years 4 and 5 in particular are working towards the 11+ so they have the added pressure of this crucial exam on top of everything else so we wanted to find ways to help them manage this pressure. Clare, Rachel and Keelie have all been fantastic in helping us achieve this.”
These sessions follow on from last term’s mental health workshop for teachers where they were educated on how to spot anxiety and depression in their pupils.