Worth-it recently caught up with Anne Marie Knowles, head teacher and senior mental health lead at Hazlehurst Community Primary School in Bury, Greater Manchester. She kindly shared how Hazlehurst is providing their own whole-school provision through an embedded wellbeing curriculum.

Annie Marie is one of Wellbeing Club’s founding members and we’re delighted that her membership has supported her to embed so many amazing activities for promoting wellbeing into Hazlehurst primary, helping to reduce behavioural issues within the school and protect the mental health of pupils and staff alike. 

Worth-it’s Wellbeing Club enables you, as a senior mental health lead, to feel confident and supported, empowering you to plan, develop and embed whole school wellbeing and positive mental health.

Promoting Wellbeing in Primary Schools - 7 Top Tips

Read Anne Marie's top 7 tips for promoting a whole school approach to wellbeing, below.

1. Don’t wait for external agencies, develop your own early wellbeing interventions. 

We had some children who were really dysregulated, so it was about how were we going to help support these children and how was I going to help support staff to feel like they could cope in those situations, and we just couldn't get any support externally.  The decision was made as a senior leadership team that we needed to equip ourselves as best we could, that's where it kind of started from, we realised we needed to develop our own targeted early intervention programme.

2. Teach a universal wellbeing curriculum, not just targeted mental health intervention

With lockdown, more and more children were displaying anxiety and the beginnings of some mental health issues. We realised that we needed a universal approach, not just targeted interventions, and we felt we needed to be the people who carried out that work.

We decided to have wellbeing monitors for the children. We have meetings with children who nominate themselves as wellbeing monitors each term, and they act as a bit of a check in the classroom. We have a self-regulation chart where children say how they're feeling in the morning. If someone is sad, several children will go over and try and help them, not just the wellbeing monitors, they just want to help their friends because they can see them feeling dysregulated. You can see through all the children it has a ripple effect.

3. Use positive education and strengths in the wellbeing curriculum

Using the character strengths framework from the Wellbeing Club Toolkit means I know that staff and children will be explicitly talking about things that will help them have good mental health and wellbeing – it’s kept top of the agenda.

We want our children to be happy. Unless you've got happy children, they're not going to learn.

We're going to introduce seven character strengths this academic year and stay focused on those. We introduce a new character strength in each assembly – linked to a book – and design learning activities based on the chosen strength. 

The character strengths are linked to house points and teachers will recognise strengths in pupils and give them a house point for this. Children also recognise strengths in each other and do class activities that help them build on strengths. 

4. Promote kindness across school community 

I watched a video from the Wellbeing Club that was about random acts of kindness and this helped give us the idea for a kindness week at school. On our final day that week we went out and did random acts of kindness throughout the community. The power of that was unbelievable. Before some of the classes had even come back, we had phone calls to school, just to say how lovely the children were and how it made that person’s day, and the kids couldn’t wait to come back and tell me about what they’d done, and they were excited to share it with their families too. You could feel the ripple effect as the kindness spread. 

5. Get buy-in from staff

Worth-it’s discovery workshop gave me some ideas about bringing staff on board.

I’ve tried to not change too many things at once, but to reflect on what we've already changed and try to make sure that we embed it: thinking how it will fit in our school, not just be another add on. In our school development plan this year I've highlighted we need to explicitly say to children when we’re going to do something because it’s going to help us with having good mental health, we're not just going to magically find good mental health, it takes work.

I delivered some CPD with the staff before we embarked on working with character strengths with the children. We all did the character strengths survey to find out what our character strengths are, which the staff really enjoyed learning about themselves. It helped them understand what we were trying to do with the children, and they were excited about looking at their own strengths, so that was a good buy-in. I know lots of staff went home and said they got their partners or their husbands to do theirs.

6. Look after your staff’s wellbeing too to support them teach the curriculum for wellbeing

I think the strengths survey itself supported our staff wellbeing. We also have our Wellbeing Angels team who are responsible for leaving little treats or messages. 

Every member of staff has a wellbeing day, every year, so they can decide when they take that day off.

As a senior leadership team, we created a wellbeing charter for our school which lists all the things that we do. We don't have a marking policy, it's a feedback policy. We try to give children the feedback directly in the lesson and they act on it – that’s massively helped reduce teachers' workload. Once every half term we have a team day, so the children are led by the teaching assistants, and the teaching staff have that day working on their subjects.

 7. Develop your universal curriculum for wellbeing

The Wellbeing Club and the indepth-courses such as the SMHL Wellbeing Pathway and the Wellbeing Toolkit offers things that I can do at my own pace, but with support elements built-in, such as face-to-face sessions, which appealed to me.

And with the Wellbeing Club based around the SEARCH framework, which is an evidence-based framework, I thought it provided the logical steps for me to plan and develop our wellbeing curriculum. 

To read the full article about how Annie Marie has been using the Wellbeing Club to develop Hazlehurst primary’s whole-school approach to wellbeing, click here

To find out how to access DfE funding for your school to join Wellbeing Club access our free funding information webinar.

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