A SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) school has become the first school in Tyneside and Northumberland to benefit from a free wellbeing programme developed by the award-winning private healthcare group, Nuffield Health.
Members of staff from Nuffield Health Newcastle Hospital and Nuffield Health Fitness & Wellbeing Gym in Gosforth launched the new School Wellbeing Activity Programme (SWAP) at Benton Dene Special School in Longbenton, as part of a country-wide campaign to educate children about positive physical and mental health.
Developed following a two-year research project which identified the importance of having a dedicated resource in schools with responsibility for wellbeing, SWAP uses academic research and behavioural change theory to address the four main areas of wellbeing: physical activity, diet, sleep and emotional resilience.
Delivered over the course of six weeks, the programme sees volunteer professionals from Nuffield Health’s hospitals and health and wellbeing clinics engaging with schools on a weekly basis. They deliver interactive workshops that delve deeper into the understanding of feelings and emotions, the environmental factors which affect sleeping habits and look at how we move and how what we eat can affect our general health and wellbeing.
Benton Dene Special School, which supports primary-age children with a range of complex learning difficulties and additional needs or Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD), heard about the SWAP programme through North Tyneside Council and felt that it fitted well with the school’s current PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) curriculum and involved lots of active learning opportunities for pupils.
Helen Milburn, assistant head teacher at Benton Dene Special School, said: “The wellbeing of our pupils is of paramount importance to us as a school. We are proud of our Healthy Schools Award and are always seeking opportunities to further support our pupil’s wellbeing.
“As a school we are very aware of the struggles our young people face, with many elements of modern-day life affecting their physical and emotional wellbeing. In addition, we know that children with learning difficulties are more likely than their peers to experience poor mental health and wellbeing; therefore we ensure we offer a variety of opportunities to our pupils.
“The SWAP programme builds upon knowledge that we teach within school through our PSHE curriculum. We feel that the programme enriches the learning for our pupils, with experts delivering the sessions in an exciting and active format.
“On behalf of all of the staff and students, I’d like to thank Nuffield Health for coming into our school. The children really enjoyed the sessions and the volunteers worked really hard to make each workshop appropriate for our children with lots of hands-on learning which was really well received.”
Julie Cranston, SWAP champion at Nuffield Health Newcastle Fitness & Wellbeing Gym added:
“We really enjoyed working with the staff and pupils at Benton Dene Special School on our first ever SWAP programme.
“Young people today are growing up in a time of massive change and experiencing significant wellbeing challenges both inside and outside of school. Through SWAP, Nuffield Health is hoping to address these issues nationwide to help embed real change in the next generation.
“Working closely alongside the staff at Benton Dene, we were able to address some very specific wellbeing challenges unique to the needs of the school’s pupils.
“Throughout the six-week programme, the children have been incredibly receptive and engaged and our staff thoroughly enjoyed the experience.”
Nuffield Health is the UK’s largest independent not-for-profit health and wellbeing charity. Through its swap programme and partnerships with local schools across the country, Nuffield Health is aiming to reach 50,000 young people by the end of 2020.
For more information about SWAP, visit: www.nuffieldhealth.com/swap.