Children need to be in the right mental state to learn effectively – The Guardian

There is a crisis in mental health for young people. Services are operating in silos and they are not working for over-tested, overstressed young people. Much emphasis has been placed on teenagers with low self-esteem, with behavioural and emotional issues and how we can support them.

At Water Hall primary school in Milton Keynes, we believe in the need to identify and address these issues early to be able to implement intervention strategies as soon as possible.

Taking action early enables vulnerable children to rebuild their self-esteem and take responsibility for their emotions, behaviour and learning. The outcome will be that they re-engage with education, perform well and are confident and happy young people.

Water Hall primary serves the Lakes Estate in Bletchley, a disadvantaged area where external issues regularly affect children’s mental and emotional wellbeing. The school has used the Kaleidoscope programme for eight years. The support system enables children to forget the things worrying them at home or elsewhere when they are in school.

Seven different stages make up a Kaleidoscope session: relax, visualise, express, move, build, explore and affirm. A designated room is used for sessions for either small groups or one-to-one sessions. Interventions last six to eight weeks.

The programme is used in all classes every day. Each morning starts with a session enabling children to be in the right frame of mind to learn. Lights are low, relaxing music is played and children are taught various calming techniques that they can use anywhere.

Kaleidoscope has had an amazing impact on the children’s emotional and mental wellbeing and their learning. Exclusions have fallen, attendance and behaviour has improved, children have taken responsibility for their learning and results have shot up. Kaleidoscope works, it gives children the tools to enable them to raise their self-esteem, with the accompanying improved outcomes for the school.

Our work proves that unless the child is in the right place emotionally and mentally, learning will not take place, however good the teaching and leadership in the school.

Tony Draper is headteacher of Water Hall primary, chief executive officer of Lakes Academies Trust, and the immediate past president of the school leaders’ union, the National Association of Head Teachers.

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