Suzanne Zeedyk, the renowned childhood development research scientist, took to the stage at the University of South Wales to deliver an empowering keynote speech at a conference promoting children's wellbeing.
The conference for the 15 schools in the Thrive Aberdare cluster earlier this month was designed to explore best practice for building the social and emotional wellbeing of pupils.
This is of utmost importance to the staff within the schools, nurturing children's resilience, promoting positive mental health and ultimately encouraging positive attitudes towards life and learning.
Penywaun, one of the schools in the cluster, introduced the Thrive Approach five years ago. It was implemented specifically as an early intervention method and the staff are thrilled with the impact it has made. The transformation was echoed in a recent Estyn inspection (the education and training inspectorate for Wales), which has seen the school taken off Estyn's review list.
Wellbeing is now at the heart of the new curriculum being developed for Wales. The Headteacher of Penywaun, Craig Pritchard, has said,
Closing the gap between pupils receiving free school meals and those that don’t is a priority for Penywaun. 60% of our pupils are eligible for free school meals. We have found that supporting their social and emotional development in school, enables them to be more ready to learn. We have been successful over the last two years in closing the gap and progress has been better than Local Authority and national averages. The progress children make from entry into school is excellent. I believe the importance we give to children’s welfare is the key to our success.
Craig's commitment to wellbeing made Penywaun the perfect setting to host the conference. Each day, in addition to Suzanne Zeedyk's speech and workshops, there were opportunities to learn more about the Thrive Approach. Used by several of the 15 schools attending, the Approach has enabled the social and emotional development of children and young people with extremely positive results.
Putting wellbeing at the core of education can sincerely improve both academic achievement and mental health outcomes for all children. Staff, parents, carers and pupils will all feel more confident and become happier within their school communities when their wellbeing is made a priority.