By Democrat reporter
West Dunbartonshire has received worldwide recognition for its efforts to improve pupils’ mental health and well-being.
Clydebank High School’s Multi-Agency Group Worker – Pupil Support, Gerry Diamond was asked to speak at the international Mindfulness in Schools Project (MiSP) conference about the successes the school has seen since introducing a programme of initiatives aimed at positively improving students’ lives.
At the Teaching Mindfully Conference 2020 event, which was due to be held in London but was instead broadcast live online, Gerry, whose family is well-known in Dumbarton, told attendees from all over the world how the school, with backing from headteacher Jacqui Lynam, had embarked on a journey to improve mental health in 2017.
Highlighting the positive changes seen since in both pupils and staff, he told how young people had been encouraged to participate in mindfulness practices including, ‘Dealing with difficult emotions’, ‘Being in the present moment’, as well as learning stress and anxiety coping strategies and various breathing exercises to help them regulate their emotions.
He also discussed how ensuring all teachers had training in mental health awareness gave staff the skills they required to foster better relationships with students, and allowed them to create a safe space for pupils to ask for support or share their problems.
Alongside the conference, the Mindfulness in Schools Project has published a paper which outlines the steps the school has taken and the success they have seen as a result.
Gerry said: “I was very proud to share our experience at the conference and I am delighted that the ongoing work by everyone at the school is receiving worldwide recognition. I would like to thank all of the pupils because without their willingness to learn and take on new approaches, this would all have been impossible. The ambition is for CHS to be a nurturing school environment where young people feel safe and supported, are able to succeed in school and gain skills for life, and I was happy to highlight the positive changes that have come about since we introduced these methods.”
Councillor Karen Conaghan, Convener of Educational Services, said: “It is really remarkable how training and introducing ways for pupils to express themselves has helped improve pupils’ well-being, helping them to achieve and enhancing relations with the teachers and wider staff within the school. I am very impressed by the support on offer to the pupils which not only helps them succeed, it also helps them to feel good about themselves both within schools and at home. I would like to thank Gerry and all his colleagues, for their commitment in helping their students make the best choices and have a happy and settled education.”
Councillor Ian Dickson, Vice Convener of Educational Services, said: “It’s really encouraging to see the school taking action to address the student’s mental health and reduce anxiety by using mindfulness approaches in schools. We know how vital it is to step in early with support to stop problems escalating by having someone who can offer help and support when needed. Where pupils and teachers have positive relationships and mutual respect, this has great educational benefits to students, not only at school but it is learning that will stay with and help them throughout their lives.”
Clydebank High School hosted the first ever West Dunbartonshire Learning Festival earlier this year, where teachers and staff from across the area attended workshops, stalls and talks focused on ‘Nurturing Positive Relationships’ and ‘Building Resilient Communities’.
The school has also been selected as a finalist in the Scottish Education Award 2020 in the category of ‘Making a Difference (secondary)’. These awards recognise and celebrate the exceptional achievements with Scottish Education.