At Cherry Tree primary school in Basildon, Essex 97% of pupils have English as an additional language and 57% of the population of the area are living in poverty, according to a report last year. Wellbeing is a priority for the school. Children aged eight to 10 in four classes do different mindfulness exercises for 10 minutes after lunch each day.
First aid stations have been converted into mental and physical health stations, with trained mental health first aiders to be there at break and lunch times.
On their trays the children all have a “first aid kit” – which is a picture of an open case with a red cross on it. They write on it what they need when they are feeling distressed, overwhelmed or anxious.
The school’s mental health first aid worker recounts ‘This week I was at one of the first aid stations when a child had an outburst and came to me saying they were “overwhelmed”. I told him to collect his mental first aid kit from the tray and we discussed what he could do. Another child came to us because they had “a busy mind” and we carried out the stress bucket activity. We discussed what was making the stress container full and what could be put in place to empty out some of the water.
Part of the school’s approach is to embrace physical activity to support mental health. One of the wellbeing activities is the daily mile, marked out on the playground. Every child from nursery to year 6 walks, jogs or runs it every day and they can do it with a friend or a member of staff. Staff find children are more likely to open up about their feelings outside of the classroom.