‘Express yourself’ was the theme for the charity Place2be’s ‘Children’s Mental Health Week’ and the Cumbria Education Trust school communities have being doing just that! There are many links between healthy self-expression and good mental health. ‘It’s all about doing what makes you feel good’, said Northside Primary School’s Headteacher, Mrs Joanne Lloyd, ‘for example on our ‘Wellbeing Wednesday’ Mike did a really long walk, Lily made a paper aeroplane and baked scrumptious cakes whilst Louisa and her sister just played nicely together.’

Just a couple of miles away, Workington Academy are mindful that the wider community needs to be strong to support their students, so have signposted staff and parents/carers to sources of advice and guidance on their website. Designated Safeguarding Lead Holly Smith has been instrumental in organising mental health training for staff, who have subsequently designed tasks such as The Warrior Challenge and most excitingly invited students to send to school inspirational and uplifting quotes all of which will be on display to create a welcoming environment upon reopening.

The West Coast Sixth Form have been enjoying weekly photography challenges which has unearthed a wealth of talent and opened plenty of social discussion to lighten the mood. As Mental Health First Aider, Mrs Miriam Wilson says ‘This isn’t a one-off week! We focus on the long-term wellbeing of our young adults to support them into their next stage of life. At the moment it’s great to keep in touch – every single one of our students can bring a smile to my face!’

Indeed, at times of crisis people often come together and nowhere is this more apparent than at Hensingham Primary School where classes come together for a social breakfast each morning and the pupil Mental Health Champions worked together to create a range of activities.  The first of these was a ‘take notice’ activity where families relaxed their minds, braved the cold and counted birds contributing to the RSPB’s Big School Bird Watch. This Friday, alongside a spot of gardening, families were encouraged to Pause, Rewind and Relax.

At The Whitehaven Academy Mental Health Champion Laurie Black has inspired students and staff to communicate their creativity and individuality through wellbeing-themed ‘drop down’ lessons and assemblies with some amazing ’feelings drawings’ and creative hat designs.

At Newtown Primary School, Carlisle, pupils have freed their minds with fun activities such as ‘Lockdown Lotto’ (prize winner photographed), ‘Wear something Wacky Day’ and mindful colouring, whilst parents have been encouraged to join Mrs Marie Jamieson and Mrs Donna Lund for a virtual coffee and a chat. The school’s wellbeing tree offers the occasional treat to those in the hub!

William Howard School’s inspirational Assistant Headteacher, Ellen Mothersdale spoke knowledgeably and compassionately about Young people’s mental health on BBC Radio Cumbria this week. This school epitomises all that is needed to support the community’s mental health and wellbeing with the pioneering introduction of a wellbeing app which empowers students to take control of their wellbeing, weekly top tips for staff and prolific use of social media offering great advice to parents and carers.

With great awareness of digital eyestrain Longtown Primary School have tried hard to give everyone a bit of a break from online learning with a variety of relaxing activities and challenges for children (and their pets), such as yoga, cloud watching and ‘thinking differently’ pledges. Particularly therapeutic has been the creation of dream and aspiration jars. The children in the hub made some great ‘change your mindset’ pledges, too.

Yanwath Primary School pioneered the Press Pause, Relax and Rewind days to allow children to have a break from the usual structured learning and screen time, engage with their families away from the devices and enjoy some fresh air. At this school all successes no matter how small, are well-celebrated through carefully crafted assemblies. Indeed, in this highly inclusive environment pupils have showcased their true selves by dressing up, singing, baking and creating some beautiful artwork and listening to wellbeing stories after some calming yoga! Indeed, the children and families have relished the continued rich variety of learning experiences on offer – as have the staff!

Tebay Primary School lives and breathes the5 ways to wellbeing’ through their school ethos and curriculum, and this week families have been encouraged to dance and sing together; draw, and then post their pictures to neighbours; learn new skills totally unrelated to the curriculum; and do at least one good deed! On Wednesday children wore their clothes inside out to help us all remember how someone looks on the outside doesn’t necessarily reflect how they are truly feeling on the inside. The end of this week sees Feelgood Friday with a well-earned pause from structured school work.

Yewdale Primary School has a long tradition of excellent welfare provision for their community and with Mrs Gemma Brierley at the helm this is clearly going to continue. She is adamant that the children in Yewdale Primary will not have to face mental health challenges alone and this is reflected in her school’s Mental Health Action Plan. Mrs Kate Mains’ class have had a ball searching through their homes to find objects to spell their classes name ‘Tolkien’! Some versions demonstrated very healthy eating …

… others, sheer imagination and fantasy like J.R.R. Tolkien himself!

Caldew Lea Primary School have given special regard to children who have had birthdays during lockdown with virtual parties and cupcakes. Additionally, every pupil in the hub has the opportunity for 1:1 conversations about their wellbeing and this consideration is extended virtually on Teams for all youngsters. Staff feel well-supported as well, especially those who are isolating as they have received lovely care packages. The school’s Engagement and Wellbeing Team are always on hand to support parents in these challenging times too.

By expressing ourselves creatively and thoughtfully we can better communicate, collaborate and build strong supportive communities with children at the heart of all decisions – and that is what Cumbria Education Trust is all about. Days are getting longer; spring flowers are peeping through and it will hopefully not be too long before we can all once more meet up with our loved ones. Meanwhile if a child needs support then the Place2be is an excellent point of contact and proponent of Children’s Mental Health Week. https://www.place2be.org.uk/