'We have emotional literacy, which means we can express feelings'

30th July 2010 at 01:00
The gym hall at Wellshot Primary in Glasgow is "brilliant": it has a climbing frame in it, explains Peter McKenzie, who is 10 and in P6 at the school.

The last 15 minutes on a Friday are also good. This is "golden time" and you get to play with your friends, says Jamie Mulholland, also in P6.

The school's other major plus point is its teachers, the pupils say. Ten- year-old Heather Weir says: "Whenever we are sad or something, the teachers will help us. We have got emotional literacy, which means we can express our feelings."

Peter says: "The teachers and the way they teach are the best bits about the school. You get listened to and they give you time and they do really interesting things."

His comments go part of the way to explaining why Wellshot won this year's Aiming High award at the Scottish Education Awards in Glasgow.

The school has its challenges, says headteacher Jennifer McCluskey. It is in an "extremely deprived" area of Glasgow's east end, where many children have no experience of their parents working.

"We have to instil inspiration and aspiration," she says.

Like the children, Ms McCluskey credits the staff with doing just that. There's Tina Stoddart and Kathleen Cant, who have organised the allotment the school should get its hands on in September; Irene McSkimming, the emotional literacy expert; Shirley Pearson, the nurture teacher; and Donald Whitelock who runs forest schools.

But the staff can't do it alone and she is hopeful that a new initiative will get parents more involved.

For the past 18 months the school has been working closely with the charity, With Kids, and has a home support worker.

He works with "hard-to-reach parents" and their children, helping to raise their self-esteem and confidence. Weekly cookery classes have been a great success, says Ms McCluskey. The parents socialise, see positive role modelling and build good relationships with their children, who join them at the end of the school day, eating around the table with their carers.

This autumn, the public will be able to see for themselves one aspect of Wellshot's nurturing ethos, when the documentary, The Nurture Room, is shown on Channel 4. When Jason, one of the film's stars, arrived at Wellshot, two schools had already failed to cope with his behaviour and he was on the waiting list for a residential placement in a school for children with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties. After an intensive period in the nurture room, Jason was integrated into a mainstream class.


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