Investing in spaces and resources to support pupils’ mental wellbeing and happiness

Olivia Conroy

Marketing Officer, St Peter’s School, York

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The emphasis on academic achievement has long been a cornerstone of educational institutions. However, as we battle with the complexities of the 21st century and the pressures on young people, prioritizing mental health and wellbeing within schools has become increasingly important. A pupil’s mental and emotional state is intricately linked to their overall development and academic performance, so we continue to invest in our pupils’ mental wellbeing and happiness, knowing that a supportive and nurturing environment is essential for realising the full potential of each pupil.

This investment has ranged from implementing counselling programs and fostering a culture of open communication, to creating inviting wellbeing spaces across the school, and working to place good mental health at the core of the educational experience across the school.

Our new Mental Health Hub and expansion of Mental Health Counsellors

As of January 2024, there are fifty pupils who are on our case load and are receiving weekly one-on-one sessions with our designated mental health team across the school. Cases are determined on a triage basis, so if an urgent referral comes through, this will be prioritised. Pupils at risk are flagged, usually through their Housemaster and with the pupil’s knowledge, and our trained professionals review each case to determine which are of the utmost priority at that time. Parents and other staff members are also able to express concerns about pupils by emailing our mental health coordinator or scanning the QR codes on posters which are available around campus. These can also be used for pupils to self-refer.

We have recently made significant changes across the three parts of our school to accommodate the growing demand for pupil wellbeing. The new Wellbeing Hub is now operational, situated in a discreet part of the senior school, where older pupils can visit as though they are entering a classroom. This is a safe, inviting space where pupils can come for pre-arranged sessions with a counsellor, drop ins, or come to find a helpful resource.

There are multiple private rooms for use during sessions, which include books, activities and toys for pupils of all ages, to lower stress levels and make them feel comforted. Younger children from our pre-prep and prep school will make the trip across campus with a member of staff if necessary.

Both the younger schools do have their own designated spaces, too. At St Peter’s 2-8, the brand new ‘Treehouse’ provides a safe and welcome space for children who are anxious or upset throughout the day. The space is furnished to provide calm away from the hustle and bustle of school life; cuddly toys, books and games allow for a cosy atmosphere which support our children’s wellbeing. Wellbeing sessions are held with the school ELSA and include opportunities for Sand and Lego Therapy, as well as Drawing and Talking sessions. St Peter’s 8-13 has a similar, designated room next to the library to support those who are feeling overwhelmed and would prefer some quiet time and a moment to talk.

Due to the increase in cases, this year we have welcomed an additional counsellor to join the Mental Health team who has been here since September. The team now consists of two counsellors Georgina and Felicity, one counsellor and mental health coordinator Simon, and a safeguarding lead, Antonia who is Head of St Peter’s 2-8.

Wellbeing throughout the school day

In addition to the dedicated spaces, wellbeing is thread throughout the school day, with regular focus and conversations on mental health during lessons and in assemblies. We have mindfulness sessions for the younger part of the school, teaching pupils how to calm their minds and centre themselves when worries overwhelm them. They start sessions with Sessions start with FOFBOC, where Feet on Floor, Bum on Chair, is used to help anchor the mind in the present moment and learn techniques such as “Beditation” where they can use mindfulness to help them to sleep when their minds are busy, by focusing on their breath, and noticing each part of their body individually.

We hope to continue adding more into our mental health provision to support pupils and cultivate not only bright minds but also healthy, resilient, and balanced individuals poised for success in every aspect of their lives.

Some further articles on our mental health facilities are here and here.

Written by Olivia Conroy, Marketing Officer, St Peter’s School, York 


1 February 2024