Praise for wellbeing space

Palmerston School teacher aide Sarah Jane Kelly shows Waitaki MP Miles Anderson around the school...
Palmerston School teacher aide Sarah Jane Kelly shows Waitaki MP Miles Anderson around the school’s wellbeing space last week. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Palmerston School has established a designated space for overwhelmed pupils and now it is asking Waitaki’s MP to help secure funding to run it.

Miles Anderson visited the school last week to visit the new wellbeing space, a designated place pupils can go when feeling sad or overwhelmed.

The school has applied for funding from the Ministry of Education to help pay for a teacher aide to run the space and has asked Mr Anderson for help to secure the money.

It had already employed a teacher aide for the role with funding from the school board, but it would need more money to continue paying her.

Principal Kerry Forse hoped the school could secure enough funding to last until the end of next year.

The space had delivered "significantly good results", particularly boosting attendance.

She believed it was a new concept for New Zealand.

"It’s been a high level of use.

"There has been some significant shifts in children being able to manage their own behaviour.

"We’ve noticed a calming across the school. What we’re hoping to see at the bottom end of that is improved results around reading, writing and math and science and all the things we teach."

The space was improving attendance by pupils who were having a bad morning and their parents would have previously let them stay home.

"Once upon a time the kids wouldn’t come to school. So, now the parents know that they can pop into the wellbeing room."

There was a decrease in playground issues, which allowed the school to have one teacher on duty during break times as opposed to two.

Mrs Forse wanted to emphasis the importance of mental health in a bid to improve the statistics among the rural community.

"We need to be doing things differently because what we’ve been doing hasn’t been changing those statistics."

The majority of the 110 pupils were boys, another demographic who historically had not talked about their emotions a lot.

"That’s one of the things we want to shift. If we can talk about our emotions, if we can ask for help and then do something with that help, then that shifts and changes everything."

Mr Anderson said he had a "pretty basic philosophy" around programmes like this.

"If it works, it should be encouraged and I’d be advocating for funding for things like this.

"The big problem we have is that I don’t think there’s going to be much money in this budget for anything.

"But, that’s not saying we don’t plan to invest in education and health over the next two years."

As it was a new concept, having definitive statistics showing the positive impact of the space would help secure funding.

He hoped to get the education and mental health ministers to visit the school.