School refusal rates have fallen and staff retention rates have increased at an inspirational Swindon primary school which has been named a School of Excellence for mental wellbeing.
Lainesmead Primary School and Nursery has held a celebration of mental wellbeing which was attended by children, senior local authority staff and councillors as well as South Swindon MP Sir Robert Buckland to mark its achievement in becoming a Thrive School of Excellence.
The school, in South View Avenue, has been praised by Ofsted for the behaviour of its pupils, who are described as ‘wonderful ambassadors’, and for the nurturing and trusting relationships that staff have with children. Lainesmead, which has 429 pupils, was named a School of Excellence after going through a rigorous assessment process with Thrive, an organisation which trains teachers and other professionals to support the social and emotional development of children and young people.
“We were overjoyed when we heard that we were a School of Excellence for mental wellbeing. As headteacher, I feel passionate about the mental health and wellbeing of our children. We have been on a real journey with Thrive and it has really helped us to feel confident that we have the right things in place to support our children after the pandemic. We have chosen to focus on a nurturing approach because this is what our children need and we have found that everything, including academic outcomes, has improved as a result,” said Headteacher Eirian Painter.
Lainesmead started its training with Thrive in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic. Mental wellbeing is embedded across the school day with regular sessions focused on supporting children to manage their emotions. Classrooms all have a calm area where children can go to regulate themselves and there are also chill out rooms kitted out with calming features and sensory toys to help children feel relaxed. Outdoors, Lainesmead has a large field, an orchard, a sensory garden, an allotment and a wooded area where regular forest school sessions take place.
'All our staff buy into what we are doing'
“School refusal is not something that we have any more. We do still have children who show anxiety about coming in but it’s nowhere near what we had before which was between two and five children who would refuse to come in,” added Mrs Painter.
“Another impact has been on staff. Everyone here is so passionate about what we do and our approach to pupils that no one is leaving at the end of this academic year, at a time when teacher retention is challenging. All our staff buy into what we are doing and they don’t want to leave a school which is so aligned with their own personal ethos,” said Deputy Headteacher Alyssia Mepstead.
Thrive’s School of Excellence award recognises extraordinary schools which are making a positive impact on their pupils, and on the wider community, by prioritising emotional wellbeing. The School of Excellence award is the highest level of achievement in Thrive’s Ambassador Schools scheme, which was launched in 2020 as a way of recognising excellence in member schools. There are five areas in which schools can evidence how they use Thrive to support children’s social and emotional development: Environment, Leadership, Right-time, Reparative and Relationship, with the School of Excellence award reserved for schools that achieve the highest standard across all five categories.
'A lovely, calm atmosphere'
As well as submitting an in-depth evidence and impact application form, the school was visited by Thrive staff to observe and assess the way that teachers and other staff implement the Thrive Approach to help build the emotional resilience of children— so they can better manage the ups and downs of life and be more open to learning.
“It’s apparent as soon as you walk in the door of Lainesmead Primary and Nursery School that everyone in school is passionate about supporting children’s mental wellbeing. There is a lovely, calm atmosphere as you walk around and it’s apparent that pupils have a high degree of emotional intelligence and awareness. Lainesmead really deserves to be a School of Excellence and staff and pupils should feel very proud of their achievement,” said Eva-Marie Ford, Thrive’s Relationship Manager for the South West and Wales.