Wellbeing Ambassadors Programmes are designed to help with early prevention of mental health problems by increasing access to support for children and young people. Thousands of secondary pupils are already benefitting from our Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme and, recognising the need to develop a programme specifically for primary pupils, we ran a primary pilot in Autumn last year. The feedback from this was incredible and helped shape our new Primary Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme into one that’s easily accessed by primary children. 

Wellbeing Ambassadors in Primary Schools

The Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme supports children and young people to become peer mentors, boosting the confidence and wellbeing of those trained as ambassadors as well as giving them strategies to support their peers. The programme is structured but it’s also flexible and easy to adapt. For the person delivering the programme there are a couple of hours training and preparation but this just builds on knowledge you’ll already have as an education professional. The programme for primary children is just 3 hours and can be delivered in one session or be split over several sessions.

Early prevention work is vital as part of a primary school wellbeing curriculum – it’s like putting a protective shield around the children you work with, building their resilience and helping them deal with challenges now and later in life.

How do you develop wellbeing in primary schools?

George Walker, Wellbeing Coordinator at Burley Oaks Academy – one of our pilot schools – spoke to us about how the Wellbeing Ambassadors programme is being used in her school. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your school and the pupils’ mental health and wellbeing needs that you've identified? 

Our school is quite a leafy Lane Primary School. However, we still find there are a lot of mental health and wellbeing needs. We've had mental health and wellbeing on the radar for a few years now and we've been running anxiety workshops and emotions workshops from year one, educating the children about emotions, how to recognise them and trying to introduce strategies early so that they've really got that knowledge around their own mental health and what to do to help themselves feel better. We're trying to be proactive and give them the tools and strategies before they escalate into something more serious. 

What does the Wellbeing Ambassadors programme mean to you? 

The Wellbeing Ambassadors programme has been really good for us. It's another resource for us to use to support the wellbeing of our pupils, and bring a certain group of individuals together, who are really taking ownership, being ambassadors, and feeling proud to be part of the team. They're role models for their class, it's working really well. Now, when we've got something special like World Mental Health Week or Children’s Mental Health Day on the horizon, we have our team of ambassadors who are on it, and can help get things organised. And they really, really enjoy it!

Brilliant! What made you take part in the pilot and order the programme for your school? 

Our SENCO found out about the programme and asked me what I thought of it. We both thought it would work well with everything else that we're doing. And it was nice to have a structure to follow to get the team trained up. It's been great. The children absolutely enjoyed everything that we did. They took it all on board, they were brilliant.

What were the biggest challenges around children's mental health that you feel the programme is helping you solve? 

One of the ambassadors said to me the other day the training has helped them notice when people are in distress and think about what the feelings behind someone’s behaviour are: maybe they've behaved in that way, not because they're trying to be mean, but because there's been a pile of things on their mind. And they just need a bit of help and support and someone to talk to. 

Promoting the visibility of mental health ambassadors in primary schools

I've got all the wellbeing ambassadors a special cap. When they are on break time, play or lunch, they choose whether they would like to wear this cap. So, if a child in the playground or lunch room needs someone to go and talk to, who’s isn't one of their friends or isn't an adult, they can spot someone with the cap on, and they know they can go to them. 

I always say to the children who we’ve trained as ambassadors, you might be having a really strong day most of the time, you’re a wellbeing ambassador, but you're not superhuman, you are allowed to think, ‘I'm not strong enough today to deal with this.’ So, they have ownership – if they feel like it, if they feel strong and want to help that day, they put a cap on, and if not, that's fine too. 

What was your biggest worry or concern before taking part in the pilot? And how do you feel now? 

I think my biggest worry was the fact that there were quite a lot of children in one room to train, across quite a wide age range as I’d chosen two from each year group one to six. But it was one of those things where you just set the time aside, and it was worth it because we've got this great team here now. Every half term, I bring all our wellbeing ambassadors together, we look at what we've done over the last half term, what we've put in place, and we look at what we're planning over the next half term, who can get involved with what, and if anyone's got any new ideas to add to the mix, and it's just lovely. They really look forward to that.

That's brilliant to hear. What are your plans for the programme going forward? You get three years access when you join – how would you like it to evolve? 

I would add a couple of extra older ambassadors in there as well. Because I think at the top of the school, when we have more things crop up, they might want to talk to each other more, so that might be useful. And I plan to give the whole team of ambassadors a refresher. 

What's the impact it's made on the school? I realise it's still getting going but what have you noticed already is successful? 

I think it is successful already. For example, we've got older people coming in to school from the village for a Christmas Bonanza and we’ve been to the parish centre to play games, and it's been lovely to have that mindful group of children to call on who are emotionally intelligent and have got those tools and that communication there. They feel confident. 

How do you think having that role is helping the wellbeing of the children who are the ambassadors? 

It's really helping their wellbeing. They do feel proud to be ambassadors. And they seem to be smiley, more confident. Some of them are chosen, even though they volunteer, because we think it's going to really help them. And it shows – you see them coming out of their shells, being able to socially interact better, and it's having a positive impact on their lives for sure. They feel confident, and they're proud. Parents are also seeing the benefits of the programme on their children and are really behind it.

Do you think that the programme has a ripple effect to the other children?

Yes, I think so. I think that's the same with everything to do with mental health and wellbeing. It communicates the whole ethos of mental health and makes us happier as a result, because we know what to do to make ourselves better, or we know what to do to help someone else make themselves feel better. Of course, you've got more smiles, you've got a calmer, happier environment, people are socialising better, making each other laugh, being able to feel comfortable in their space that they're in and who they're with. And it is a massive ripple effect. The children learn to accept praise and give praise to each other and be helpful, it's brilliant. And the staff have less to deal with because the pupils are happier!

What would you say are the benefits of an early prevention approach? 

The Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme is another tool to add to our box of early preventative strategies. Building that resilience, giving children as many strategies and tools as we can at a young age is not only going to help them focus on their own learning, but also as teenagers and adults dealing with life, with jobs. 

How do you feel your whole school approach to wellbeing affects children’s learning?

It has a massive effect on the learning and what they can achieve, it's so important. Teachers know that if they've got a dysregulated child, there is absolutely no point in trying to get them to focus on what they're doing. We need to help them stabilise their emotions, feel calm, less worried, happy in themselves. They need to get their wellbeing back to a place where they can clear their brains, and then they can focus on what they're doing. That's what we firmly believe here. 

I agree, a stressed brain cannot learn very well. What would you say to someone who's thinking about using the Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme for their primary school? 

I think it's great, I’d say give it a try! It might help to familiarise yourself with the resources, and get everything ready before you train your ambassadors. And don't worry about it because the children really enjoy it. Some of them know more than you think they know. They help each other, they ask questions. And they are proud and happy to do it. They really embrace it. So don't hesitate, go for it! Try the Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme, and it'll really help in so many ways. It's such a worthwhile investment.

Any final thoughts you’d like to share? 

Just keep going, keep on empowering children with the knowledge of their own mental health and being there for other people. I think it gives them the self-belief and confidence they need and resilience to fight off adversity when it comes their way. 

We’d like to thank George for her time, and for sharing how Worth-it’s Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme is working at Burley Oaks to support pupils’ wellbeing and help protect their mental health. 

How can you develop wellbeing in your primary school?

If you’d like some fun ideas for wellbeing activities, you can download our free wellbeing activities leaflet which is printable, colourful, and designed specially to use with primary age children. Very soon we’ll be delivering our webinar on peer support in primary schools, so come along to find out more or we can send you a recording if you can’t make it on the day.  

To find out more about Worth-it’s Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme for primary schools, visit our programme page. We look forward to helping you increase the wellbeing and resilience of the children you work with. 😊

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