Project is 'best for 20 years'

12th December 2008 at 00:00

Ann Moore, headteacher of Preston Street Primary in Edinburgh, one of the 10 primaries involved in the city's Growing Confidence project, said the emotional literacy survey results largely chimed with her own impression of the school, but there were some surprises.

"There was one question about what you would do if someone else was hurt," she noted. "A significant number of pupils showed their empathy could have been stronger."

However, Ms Moore believes the emotional health and wellbeing of her school is already improving.

She describes the scheme as "one of the best projects I've seen in 20 years of teaching".

Seasons for Growth has run twice in the school and helped youngsters deal with everything from divorce to the suicide of a parent. It is scheduled to run again soon.

All children benefit from the Creating Confident Kids materials, designed by Scottish teachers with the help of the School of Emotional Literacy's Elizabeth Morris and based on England's Seal (social and emotional aspects of learning) project.

Preston Street Primary has also completed its first community project, transforming a playground shelter. Before it looked like a 1950s toilet, says Ms Moore, and P7 pupil Zach Finney said it was "white, normal and horrible". After working with an artist to create a mosaic depicting playground games, it is now bright and colourful and "everybody loves it", says Reece Beveridge in P6.

The P7 pupils interviewed older members of the community to find out about the games they played at school, P1 pupils then did the drawings and everyone helped in making the mosaics.

The school's next community project will be to set up a community choir.

Staff are also being supported to improve their emotional health and wellbeing. Joyce Aitken, a teacher of 30 years' experience, has benefited from life coaching provided by Standard Life staff.

"Sometimes this job is very stressful, and it just takes someone who is emotionally detached from the situation to help you focus in on what is important," she says.

John Johnstone, a personnel manager at Standard Life, who coached Ms Aitken, says: "To work with professionals who are passionate about what they are doing is stimulating. To be part of helping them make a difference to something as meaningful as the emotional development of children is a privilege."

Ms Aitken has also been on the Confident Staff Confident Children course, along with learning assistants Jane Moffat and Audrey Boswell. The course, which includes a three-hour work-shadowing placement, aims to ensure those working with children have a positive outlook, are able to understand their own feelings and empathise with others.

"We had to think about what made us happy coming into work and what makes a child happy coming into school," says Ms Moffat. "They don't like it if their teacher is in a mood, just as we don't like it if they're in one."

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