Camulos Academy step out for 5k walk for Save the Children’s Emergency Appeal

Children from Colchester’s Camulos Academy, part of REAch2 Academy Trust, took part in a 5k walk on Sunday to raise emergency funds for families in Ukraine.

The big-hearted youngsters and their families took part in the walk, with over 40 people giving up their Sunday to raise £2,140 for the Save the Children’s Ukraine appeal.

The children, from across the school, were all rewarded with a chocolate medal for their efforts, but the smile on their faces was more because they had smashed their fundraising target of £2,000.

Lisa Gibb, Mum of Harrison in Year 3 who organised the walk said:

“Wow, what an awesome morning we’ve had on our sponsored walk! Around 40 people came and we’ve smashed our fundraising target! The walk was very muddy, but the kids absolutely loved it and everyone was in high spirits. The children all received a chocolate medal at the end of the walk to thank them for their efforts. Thanks so much to everyone for sharing, donating and supporting our cause.”

Harrison Gibb said:

“It was really fun and everyone enjoyed it. I found it moving that we knew we were doing it for children who are in danger in their own country.”

Suryaa Prakash said:

“I feel really bad for the children in Ukraine and how they are suffering and so raising money to help is very important.”

Headteacher of Camulos Academy, Lisa Frith-Sly said:

Mabel (our school dog) and I had a wonderful time on the walk. The Camulos Community is strong. It is powerful for pupils to feel that they can make a positive difference, and this is very much part of our school ethos. Another amazing achievement by our families. We are very proud.

The pupils’ fundraising page for the DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal is open for anyone wanting to donate: Lisa Gibbs is fundraising for Save the Children (justgiving.com)

Children’s Mental Health Week Spotlight: Ranikhet Academy

At Ranikhet Academy, mental health is something that is discussed every single day, forming an essential part of our Steps to Success, where the school works to ensure their children are physically and emotionally healthy, which is key to their wellbeing.

Louisa Sanghera, Head of School explains, “The school has a listening culture, where children know if they need to talk to an adult they can do and can be confident that what they say will be acted on and fed back. We’ve done a tremendous amount of work with our pupils to help them articulate their feelings and emotions and helped them develop their vocabularies to describe their feelings and emotions.

One of our main interventions to support pupils’ social and emotional mental health is our Nurture Group, which takes place every morning for children with SEND, or where staff are aware of concerns for them. The Nurture Group room is designed to resemble a ‘family home’ room, so there is a kitchen area, a sofa area, and floor space for learning through play. At present there are 12 children in this group.

In the room, children do a number of learning activities alongside wider activities to develop their social skills. As one example: when they have a mid-morning snack it is the children who make the toast, butter it, serve it to each other, and then wash up afterwards. Our staff model the behaviours we want to see, but otherwise try to sit back and let the children develop at their own pace.

Since bringing in the Nurture Group we have seen a real improvement in behaviour. Previously these children were really struggling to engage with their learning in a large classroom setting, leading to low-level behaviour issues and general disruption. As soon as they were taken out of the classroom and put into the Nurture Group setting for the morning, they were calmer throughout the day.

They clearly enjoy the structure and routine of their morning in the Nurture Group, while also developing strong relationships with the teachers there. We invite their parents into the school so they can see what a morning there looks like, and that also gives us the chance to discuss those so-important things like getting a good night’s sleep, having a solid bedtime routine, a healthy diet, and even giving them some cookery instruction for the future. It means it’s supportive for the whole family, which helps them develop their family unit as well as improving our relationships with them.

Our plan is for the children in the Nurture Group to be in there for four half terms. After this we will assess them to see if they are ready to start their transition back to the classroom, dividing their mornings between the Nurture Group and the classroom, before going back permanently. Of course, if they are not ready, they can stay in the Nurture Group for longer.”

Like Aerodrome Primary Academy and Beccles Primary Academy, pets also feature in the pastoral offer at Ranikhet. There is a ‘Reading to Guinea Pigs Club’, a morning club which is run weekly where children can come in and read chosen stories to the school’s pet guinea pigs.

The school has two guinea pigs which play a key role in supporting the most vulnerable children. These pupils may have struggled to develop their reading skills, as well as requiring emotional support, and so now have the opportunity to come into school and spend time with the pets and read to them in a reassuring and safe environment.

Two Year 6 pupils at Ranikhet Academy are the designated Guinea Pig Champions – responsible for supervising and cleaning out the guinea pig cages, modelling how to care for the pets, and how to use this kind behaviour in pupils’ wider lives. Using pets to support children’s reading is becoming more common in schools across the country as they provide a non-judgemental, supporting, presence which encourages pupils to feel more confident in reading aloud. In addition, there is growing evidence that children’s social and emotional development can benefit greatly from interactions with animals.

Louisa says, “We are delighted with the impact our guinea pigs have made since joining our school– they have been a great addition. Spending time with them has really helped some of our pupils who might need just that extra emotional support at school.”

Children’s Mental Health Week Spotlight: Heath Hayes Academy

Sometimes it takes just small changes to a school’s approach to make a significant impact on the emotional wellbeing of their pupils. Mary-Ellen Krause, Inclusion Lead explains:

“As a school we wanted our approach to children’s mental health to be proactive, rather than managing crises or responding to behaviour issues. As a result, we established our Relational Care Team (RCT), consisting of five members of staff with the role (in addition to their day jobs!) of supporting children with their unmet needs.

The RCT look for children who might need additional support, whether that’s due to bereavement, mental health issues, concerns with their learning, or anything else. Each member of the team wears a star on their lanyard so any child can identify them and know they can come to them for help.

So far, the impact has been incredibly positive. When it comes to dropping children off for the day, particularly on a Monday or after a holiday, they can be unsettled, but with two members of the RCT on the gate they are far more likely to be happier and start their day more smoothly. Having that friendly face right at the start means they know there’s someone there in case of any issues.

It’s also hugely helped across the school with any incidences of low-level unwanted behaviour. Because our pastoral support actively identifies any potential issues and mitigates them in advance, a child who is struggling with their learning can access this support and get themselves back in the right mindset to learn.

We’ve noticed a reduction in children coming to us in crisis and we’ve been able to identify patterns which has proven incredibly effective. We can notice an issue brewing and can often ‘nip these in the bud’.”

The school has plans to develop its Relational Care Team further.

“We already run a ‘soft start’ on Friday mornings for children with SEND, attachment issues or trauma, where they start the day in our nurture provision. It’s been really effective and parent feedback has been glowing about how much of a difference it makes.

That’s why we want to run this on a daily basis, with a member of the RCT overseeing it, to make sure these children start every school day at their absolute best.

In addition, after the February half term, we’re going to look at organising a separate dining room for pupils with sensory needs, who might struggle with a busy dining room. Again, a member of the RCT can oversee this and make sure these children can eat their lunch in peace, and so be in a far better mindset for their afternoon lessons.

These might look like small tasks, but their impact can be tremendous in supporting all our children to feel valued and to know we are actively looking to make the school environment as supportive as possible for them. Every member of the RCT wants our pupils to feel welcome, and ready to learn.”

Children’s Mental Health Week Spotlight: Camulous Academy

Whilst waiting lists were long before March 2020, one of the consequences of the pandemic has been a tremendous backlog in accessing external services to support pupils’ mental health. As a result, Camulos Academy has worked to train up their staff to develop a model of internal support to ensure pupils are able to reach their full potential.

Sam Greatorex, SENDCo at Camulos explains, “Our staff are very good at noticing triggers and signs of potential distress among our pupils. We’ve done a lot of training on this in the past and it has really paid off. Teachers are very quick to come and say they have a child who is struggling, meaning we can move quickly to see if they need an intervention, or a programme of support put in place.”

Programmes include speech and language interventions to enable pupils to have the vocabulary to express their emotions, as well as training a member of staff as an Emotional Literacy Support Assistant to help children develop their emotional and social skills.

“We are in the process of training up two members of staff on Mental First Aid courses, and our Headteacher is a Mental Health First Aider. These are vital roles where they can spot the signs of mental health issues and have the skills to support someone in crisis. It also means raising awareness around mental health for both staff and pupils and reducing any stigma around mental health.”

Another support mechanism in place, funded by the school, is a play therapist who comes in every week to work with pupils who need more focused support. If children are struggling to engage with their classes, they’ll be referred to the therapist for an initial six-week block. This has proven to have a huge impact in helping these pupils regulate their emotions, and while they may still have their ‘blips’, it’s a significant improvement in helping them concentrate in class.

Despite all these measures the school recognises that some children may still need more professional support through accessing CAMHS. However, with external support still difficult to access, by developing a model of internal support the school has embedded a supportive and caring ethos throughout the school.

Always looking to improve, the school has more plans in place to enhance mental health support for their pupils. “We want to build on our provision by training staff on Trauma Perceptive Practice. This helps staff understand more about the neurobiology behind pupil behaviours, why different situations cause pupils to react in different ways, and how these are influenced by the traumas they’ve experienced. It essentially helps staff understand that pupils aren’t misbehaving because they’re naughty, but rather because there are underlying issues that they need to explore.

These could be previous traumas, attachment issues, or emotional concerns. The programme is non-punitive and is designed to help staff identify certain triggers in their pupils and then approach them in a more compassionate fashion.”

The Headteacher and SENCo are currently training on the programme and will look to embed it among the rest of the staff over the course of the summer term.

It’s just one more example of the school looking at how they can mitigate the impact of losing outside support. With schools across the country struggling to access external services, Camulos have had to think harder about how they can actively widen the support they can offer ‘in-house’. “Our school culture is built around inclusion and putting in the work to help our pupils overcome any barriers to learning and developing a strong internal model of support is central to this.”