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School’s wellbeing centre makes pupils feel good

Pupil Ellie enjoys some quiet time in the school's wellbeing room

A Stevenage secondary school has given an old sports storage room a complete facelift to create an oasis of calm for pupils.

The John Henry Newman School used their £500 Feeling Good Week grant to convert an outbuilding into a wellbeing centre for young people to use at break and lunchtimes.

Pupils chose the centre’s calming colour scheme and created artwork to decorate the cosy space, which has beanbags, comfy sofas, soothing music and emotional wellbeing activities.

Ruth Davies, director of learning support and inclusion at the 1,600-pupil Hitchin Road school, said the wellbeing centre had given pupils a place where they can talk to someone and receive the support they need early on rather than it escalating to a situation where they are unable to cope.

She added: “We were so excited about setting up the project, knowing that it would make a big difference to many of our pupils, and it has. Emotional health is such an area of need, nationally and locally, that we wanted to improve things here.

“The centre offers a place for quiet reflection, with calming music playing, journal-writing, a member of staff on duty to talk to, counselling sessions and group games.”

Year 11 pupil Ellie, 15, said she had found the wellbeing centre a great help, attending small group sessions to tackle anxiety, reading self-help books and tackling tricky jigsaw puzzles.

“It’s really calming in here, I like coming in some lunchtimes, and I’ve read a lot of the books. It’s been good because it makes you realise, you’re not alone, you’re not the only one and gives you ways of coping, like breathing exercises.”

Mrs Davies added that pupils had filmed a video encouraging others to talk about their emotional health in an effort to break down stigma that will be shared in assemblies ahead of Feeling Good Week 2017, which starts on Saturday 18 February, with evening parent workshops planned, and a fish tank installed as a final relaxing fixture.

Frankie Walsh, 19, Youth Health Ambassador at Healthwatch Hertfordshire, who leads the Feeling Good Week grant-giving process, said: “They really have created an oasis of calm at John Henry Newman. It’s great to see funding being used for projects with long-term impact, not just one-off events.”

Feeling Good Week is a Hertfordshire-wide event that sees schools and the wider community promoting young people’s emotional wellbeing, raising awareness of mental health and where to access support with the school community.

Some 44 bids will receive a share of the £20,000 Feeling Good Week 2017 funding, earmarked by the county’s two NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and Hertfordshire County Council. A group of young people reviewed the applications and judged which should be funded, including yoga and mindfulness, football events and learning circus skills.