In response to more pupils requiring access to mental health support, an independent school in Newcastle has invested “significantly” in a new wellbeing centre.
‘The Snug’ has been in use at Dame Allan’s School since the October half term and was supported by donations.
Located on its senior school site in Fenham, the wellbeing centre houses support services operating outside the curriculum, including psychotherapy, counselling, learning support and special education needs (SEN).
Natalie Shaw, vice principal (pastoral) at Dame Allan’s, said: “Dame Allan’s has always been forward-thinking. It was the first school in Newcastle to employ a dedicated counsellor over 20 years ago, acknowledging that children need to talk to people other than their teachers or parents.
“Times continue to change, and over recent years we have seen an increase in the number of children accessing support, and a more complex array of needs.
“Young people are facing new feelings of anxiety stimulated by the struggles they have been through while trying to adapt to a pandemic.
“This isn’t isolated, it’s happening globally, and we know our students need our support. They need a place they feel safe – a positive space that is an important part of the schools, with no stigma attached.”
Times continue to change, and over recent years we have seen an increase in the number of children accessing support, and a more complex array of needs – Natalie Shaw, Dame Allan’s School
The Snug includes a counselling area, chaplain’s room and prayer space, SEN office and soft-seating area.
Dame Allan’s has four mental health professionals, one of whom is a child and adolescent psychotherapist – though they are currently recruiting for another. They also have teachers who are trained in mental health first aid.
During previous lockdowns, Dame Allan’s put in place a number of initiatives to support children’s mental health whilst at home. This included online form time with break out rooms to talk, peer mentoring, counselling, and break time chats with different pupils and teachers.
They also implemented ‘switch off Friday’ where pupils were given a list of activities to do that did not involve technology. Removing the requirements to set homework also ensured pupils and staff didn’t spend longer looking at screens than necessary.
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