ONE of the top 10 high-performing schools in Wales unveiled a series of programmes designed to support the physical and mental health of pupils following the unprecedented challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic.
For the majority of children, 2022/23 is the first ‘normal’ academic year they have had since 2019.
At Ysgol Eirias in Colwyn Bay, the newly developed curriculum now includes an Area of Learning and Experience (AoLE) focused on the health and wellbeing of learners, families, and the community, with subjects including PE (Physical Education), PSE (Personal and Social Education), RSE (Relationships and Sexual Education) and an anti-bullying initiative.
Food technology and nutrition and cookery are also available at GCSE level, helping students to develop vital life skills for the future.
Assistant Headteacher Hayley Blackwell said the AoLE begins with Year 7 and will be rolled out across the school so that all pupils are given the encouragement to be ambitious, creative and make ethical and healthy decisions going forward.
“We are also working closely with our primary schools to ensure there is a smooth transition and consulting with parents and stakeholders to get their feedback, which is so important,” she said.
PE teacher Rhys Johnson is leading the AoLE for Year 7 and reinforced those comments.
“The response we have had from children and the parents has been very heartening and positive, because we are all working together to ensure their health and wellbeing is the top priority,” said Mr Johnson.
“We have taken a fresh approach to a lot of the subjects, including PE; there are still traditional lessons where they play sports like rugby and football but also ‘Reach’ lessons to bring everyone together, pupils of all abilities, to focus on teamwork, problem solving and more.”
He added: “This ethos brings a lot more benefit to a lot more people, so that nobody is left behind, it’s a more holistic way of doing things but it’s proving more important than ever post-Covid.”
Ellie Wilkinson, Head of PSE for Years 7 to 11, has also been taking a more accessible journey to inclusion with the learners, and said food and nutrition in particular has been a crucial element of the curriculum, notably for vulnerable and disadvantaged young people.
“Delivering lessons remotely during the pandemic was tough, for teachers and the children,” she said.
“The AoLE brought new opportunities to cover the PSE curriculum and repair gaps in students learning that wasn’t suitable for home learning during Covid, and themes around health and wellbeing are all interlinked, constantly evolving in partnership with Welsh Government to meet the needs of these young people, when they need it most.
“Cookery is a crucial part of that, and some of our young people do already cook for themselves and others in their family. At Ysgol Eirias we make sure on leaving in Year 11, every single learner has the ability to make a fresh, nutritious recipe from scratch, and understands the value of a healthy lifestyle.”
The school’s recent Estyn Inspection acknowledged the strength of its wellbeing programmes.
Inspectors reported: “Pupils’ emotional health and wellbeing is a key priority, and this is promoted well through day-to-day activities and the school’s pastoral care system. The school has an inclusive and supportive ethos that promotes pupils’ wellbeing and emotional health effectively.
“Following the pandemic, the school is beginning to reintroduce a wide range of beneficial extra-curricular activities. Extensive sporting opportunities promote pupils’ physical health, and a diverse menu of clubs help to expand their social and cultural experience and encourage their creative imagination.”
For more information and to view the school’s new video #SucceedingTogether, visit the website www.eirias.co.uk.
Alternatively, email [email protected], call 01492 532025 and follow @ysgoleirias and @eirias on social media.