A PRIMARY school could soon implement a Finnish anti-bullying programme as part of a drive to support the mental health of its pupils.

St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Carterton is set to take part in a trial which focusses on KiVa, an anti-bullying programme that has been developed at the University of Turku in Finland.

The programme is not the only initiative being taken though, as the school has also had two of its teaching assistants trained as ELSAs (emotional literacy support assistant), while another assistant received bereavement support accreditation from the Rainbows Bereavement Support charity.

The ELSA course covers areas such as social skills, emotions, bereavement, anger management, self-esteem and counselling skills.

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Headteacher Lisa Smith said: “During these unprecedented times and periods of lockdown, the effects on mental health is at the forefront of everyone’s mind.

“Our pupils have shown resilience and for many, increased independent approaches to their learning.

“St Joseph’s is committed to ensuring the good mental health of all and has taken steps to ensure that this is a whole school priority.

“We have invested in supporting our staff and pupils through mental health first aiders for both pupils and staff, and all staff have completed a six-hour mental health first aid for children course.

“We are now a rainbow school, we have two trained facilitators who can deliver specialist support for pupils who have been bereaved through either death or separation of parents and an ELSA who will be able to deliver emotional literacy support to our pupils, and who will be supported in this role by Oxfordshire County Council educational psychologists.”

St Josephs Carterton.Picture: Ric Mellis.14/9/2017 St Josephs Catholic Primary School, Lawton Avenue, Carterton, OX18 3JY.

Picture: Ric Mellis

What is one of the most exciting developments though is that the school will be taking part in a project, which will assess the impact of KiVa.

Mrs Smith added: “We are also part of the Stand Together action research project which is a trial from prominent university research groups, including the University of Oxford, and is looking to find out if KiVa, an anti-bullying programme developed in Finland, is better at reducing school bullying and promoting the wellbeing of Key Stage 2 pupils.”

KiVa is based on decades of extensive research of bullying, and has three main elements: prevention, intervention and monitoring.

Studies in Finland, involving 28,000 primary school pupils, found that KiVa significantly reduced bullying and improved mental wellbeing.

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Now, KiVa is used in over 90 per cent of Finnish public primary schools.

The Stand together trial aims to see if KiVa can be rolled out across the UK.

Approximately 120 schools are being recruited to take part, including schools in Birmingham, Devonshire and North Wales.

Half of the schools in the trial will be randomly selected to deliver KiVa, while the other half will continue with usual anti-bullying strategies.