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St Mary’s Empathy Heroes

Published on: July 15, 2020

By Ashleigh Coombs, Wellbeing Worker, Compass BUZZ

With some children returning to St Mary’s RC Primary School in North Yorkshire, staff at school wanted to focus on their pupils wellbeing and how they have coped during this unprecedented time.

“It is essential that as the children come back to us at St Mary’s we carry out our Assessment for Learning and re-ignite our curriculum and learning for our children, together as a community.  However, this cannot be carried out in isolation and has to be coupled with a robust and bespoke wellbeing programme that is under pinned through our school values and vision.  This will be based upon the 5 steps of well-being – reconnecting, being active, taking notice of each other and the world around us, keep learning and us all giving time – to words, presence and reflect!  There will be opportunities for the children and staff to reconnect as well as reconnection with our school community.”  Mrs Whitehead – Headteacher

The wellbeing of children is vital, not only to their mental and emotional health but it can enhance their learning to achieve academically. It encourages them to build healthy relationships themselves and others.

They can begin to understand their big and busy minds, becoming a detective of their own problems. Teaching wellbeing also can encourage children to take notice of those people around them, who can support them in a time of need and safety. It is such a versatile topic that can be explored and taught in many ways and is adaptable to different learning styles. Additionally, for those children who are currently home learning it is something can be done at home, individually or as a family.

“Wellbeing of children is something I am passionate about, and due to the current global situation, they need it more than ever. Since consistently making each theme of wellbeing a topic each week in our return to school, we have had some wonderful feedback from the children. They are settled, happy, connecting, and sharing emotions. Some have said they feel more confident. It is having a positive impact and is a great way to deepen that rapport.” Mrs James, Pupil Welfare

Mrs James and SENCO, Miss Fautley have designed a way in which they can incorporate wellbeing within the curriculum and as a topic on its own that can be completed through different pieces of work. The planning they did for the summer term has been working and they are excited to put the wheels in motion for September.

They kicked off the project by focusing on worries, creating worry bags, normalising worries, and incorporating literacy skills using the Huge Bag of Worries book. They launched an emotional check in within each bubble and the children had the choice of how they wanted to create their board; they used computer-based check in’s, hand drawn sheets, images and words. This will be turned into a board for the whole school to see when ‘normal’ school life resumes.

To continue with the ways to wellbeing as a theme each term, these can be linked in with a range of subjects. This will encourage the children to adapt what they learn to all areas of their life and become a natural instinct in which they can apply to situations or experiences. Plans include continuing to promote mental health and wellbeing with the help our champions, via virtual assemblies, presentations, and awareness days.

Looking at ways to interact with parents about wellbeing in offering resources they can use at home, as well as listening and sharing of ideas. They want to have an inclusive environment where they work collaboratively with staff, children, and families. Prior to COVID-19 the school held an emotion workshop for parents and child together, this proved to be a great success and they received wonderful feedback with the request to do more. Moving forward in these unprecedented times, they are conducting a survey with parents to find out what workshops they would like as a virtual lesson. Again, listening and respecting the voice of the families.

Another focus will be learning about growth mind-sets, highlighting aspirations, goal setting and problem solving. Wellbeing is going to become part of their weekly routine, where they have a timetabled afternoon to discuss, explore and create work around their theme. Each morning will involve an emotional check in, where children can check themselves in as one of the six basic emotions (Eckman), this can be then followed up if required to ensure that the children have the opportunity to share and explore their feelings. This will be led by their class teacher, they will also be given the option to speak with one of the pupil champions.  They plan to have a worry box in each classroom to offer the chance of removing any worries from their mind which will then be acknowledged and addressed if needed.

Teddy bears have been ordered for September which will be in place to support the pupils emotional literacy.  In using these wellbeing bear mascots, they aim to support emotional literacy, resilience, and discussions, especially within the younger years.

New “Buzz Boxes” will be in each classroom, these will help with the development and exploration of emotional literacy and awareness into overcoming problems. The “Buzz Box” will contain objects with a metaphorical meaning, such as items that incorporate empathy, problem solving and reflection. It will be a great visual aid to prompt the children in considering different aspects of text they may be reading or writing.

Their wellbeing champions will be key to offering suggestions on ways pupils can utilise the tools within themselves to support our regulation of emotions, offering ideas via a display board or assembly.

St Mary’s have lots of ideas buzzing around, but for now their focus is to re-launch, re-engage and re-connect with our school community on the importance of wellbeing. They want to ensure they have the consistency within school in applying a solid base for mental health and wellbeing to which they can continue to grow and develop and flourish just like the pupils of St Marys.

The super star key worker children have been creating balloons with a message inside for their peers, messages of joy, happiness, resilience, and positive affirmations. These are currently being delivered out into the community for the children of St Mary’s Primary. Messages include keep safe, we miss you, you are doing amazing. A Pupil Wellbeing Champion for the school has been posting jokes around the community in Richmond to try and lift the spirits of the residents. We at Compass BUZZ think this is superb!

School is being redecorated with positive statements focusing on wellbeing around it, and ideas are in place to create a fairy garden where the children will take ownership, plant their flowers and watch them grow.

Pupils at St Mary’s Primary school have said:

“Doing wellbeing has given me more confidence to try new things because it has made me more happy. Learning about resilience has made me more confident doing work I would normally struggle with. Learning about wellbeing in school has helped me at home to notice when Mommy might be sad. After learning about empathy, I can now imagine how she is feeling.” (Year 4).

“Instead of thinking that someone should be happy when they are grumpy. We can ask them if they are okay and show empathy.” (Year 2)

“We have learned that it is okay to make mistakes” (Year 1).

St Mary’s RC Primary School has always been a school that has promoted their children’s positive mental health and wellbeing, so the ideas did not come as a surprise to Compass BUZZ. We applaud you for all of the hard work you have done to build the resilience and wellbeing of the children at your school to help protect, promote, and improve their mental health and wellbeing.

Thank you to the staff and pupils from St Mary’s RC Primary School, Richmond for their amazing art work and wonderful contribution to this article. Compass BUZZ are proud to be working with such a forward thinking school.