Sunday, 24 October 2021

Children take time out to look after mental health

Children take time out to look after mental health

CHILDREN at Goring Primary School have been taking part in a pilot scheme designed to nurture their mental health.

The Church of England primary has been testing Space Makers, a “toolkit” that encourages pupils to spend some time every day in contemplation, away from the pressures of school and wider society.

It was created by the Diocese of Oxford to help schools “embrace some of the ancient wisdom of the Christian tradition and assist children to navigate the world around them”.

The school says it has found the daily mindfulness and contemplation sessions help to alleviate stress and anxiety among the children.

The programme will now be launched in schools across the Diocese, which covers Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes.

Year 6 teacher Alisa Tooling said: “When the whole of education seems to be about targets and results and pressure, Space Makers gives students the chance to just be rather than do. There’s a lot of stresses and strains on young children today, to do with the advancement of technology, exam stress, things that they’re noticing in the world around them, the fact that the news isn’t that great, that we talk about climate change and all the things in the world that are happening.

“This toolkit seemed to fit really nicely alongside what we were already doing to encourage the pupils to talk about their problems.”

The Wallingford Road school has been following the programme for the last two years.

It focuses on five exercises, one for each day of the school week. These are stilling, noticing, dwelling, mending and blessing.

They usually take the form of encouraging the children to sit quietly and think through things in their life that they may be worried about or thankful for.

Ms Tooling said: “On introducing it, what pupils really enjoyed was that opportunity to be still, to take five minutes out of the business of the day and just stop and have time to think.

“Their feedback has been that those times of calmness and quiet have allowed them to think about themselves and their feelings and the things they can do to improve their sense of wellbeing.

“Their little lives are so busy, filled with so many things to do. The more we’ve done the sessions, the more they see the benefit and the more they want them.”

Ms Tooling said the programme had been particularly useful in helping the children cope with anxiety during the coronavirus pandemic.

She said: “It has helped the children deal with all the unusual things that they’ve had to confront, things that they’ve had to do, different practices, coming into school having anxiety about being in a classroom with children from other families.

“That space to just be able to think that through and take time out has really helped keep those stresses low.” Ms Tooling said she had noticed a massive difference in the children.

She explained: “They mature and become more considerate of each other and more aware of each other and themselves.

“I feel the children leaving Goring are more whole as a result of this experience, that we’ve given them techniques they can use for life.

“I’ve taught in classes where I haven’t been able to do that before and I can actually look back and say, ‘I feel these children are better prepared for what’s coming in life’.

“The pupils feel they are treated very specially and they really respond well to that.

“Instead of being treated just as pupils in a classroom, they are treated very sensitively.”

Headteacher Angela Wheatcroft said the school had found the programme was having a positive impact on the staff as well as the children.

For more information about Space Makers, visit www.oxford.
anglican.org/mission-ministry/
youthandchildren/contemplative-toolkit

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