Primary school shows ‘future of education’ with therapy room

A STALYBRIDGE primary school has become the first in Tameside to install a new therapy room for its pupils.

And its head believes it could signal the future of education as the traditional system is not working.

Buckton Vale has converted what was an IT room into the new facility, in which children have the space to thrive without stress and trauma.

Now headteacher Deborah Brown believes having an area where pupils can go about their work in a very different way can become the norm.

Headteacher Deborah Brown with pupils at Buckton Vale Primary School

She told The Correspondent: “Children’s mental health is my passion.

“I’ve been looking into trauma-informed practices and finding out what’s going to work for us.

“I came the classrooms and I just thought, ‘Wow, this is exactly what we’re looking for.’ We desperately need it in education. Not just at Buckton Vale, everywhere needs it.

“When you think about education, we’re still working in a system that’s more than 100-years-old.

“We’re still sitting children at tables, they’re all facing the front and they’re all in groups. It’s very plastic and it’s very hard.

“And we know children’s mental health issues are on the up in terms of anxiety. We’ve got school avoidance, we’ve children who are really struggling to regulate their emotions. This is a start for us in terms of a safe place for the children to be and to learn.

“This is a calming environment and I really do think this is the future for education.

“Why are we still doing what we’ve always done? Let’s not do that because it isn’t working, is it?

“If it was, we wouldn’t have a situation where we’ve got an exponential rise in children who are avoiding school, in anxiety levels and suicide rates.

“We can’t ignore this data – it’s there and we’ve got to do something about it urgently.”

Buckton Vale’s latest addition has been installed by TPC Therapy Ltd and paid for by its parent teacher association, who raised money through Christmas and summer fairs, bingo nights and year six outreach work.

And Shahana Knight, from the firm which helps teach schools pupils’ behaviour is often a sign of their emotions or feelings, believes the therapy room theory comes from experience.

She said: “As well as language and behaviour policies, we look at environment – it hasn’t changed for 50 years.

“Plastic tables and chairs that were designed for kids years ago are still there. That can be a barrier to learning.

“Kids are fidgeting and uncomfortable, then we tell them off for that. If the numbers of children with emotional or additional mental health needs are rising, why are we expecting them to be in environments that make them feel less safe?

“Staff then have no space and children disabilities can’t even get in classrooms. As a mental health service, we’ve said, ‘Something needs to be done now.’

“Now schools all over the UK going, ‘Can you transform my environment now?’ And the mental health impact on children is instant.

“Children who wouldn’t go into school are suddenly in there every day. The impact is massive, the difference can be seen the next day.”

Now the therapy room is open, Deborah cannot wait to see how it changes life at Buckton Vale.

She added: “It’s been a long time coming and I’m really excited now we’re here.”

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