Unique pilot project leads the way in supporting student wellbeing

A unique pilot programme aimed at supporting the wellbeing of more than 900 students at St James School has already achieved success in the first term of its delivery.

Live and Move, which is an Exeter City Council initiative funded by Sport England, is working with St James to offer enrichment activities to its students every Wednesday after school.

And to ensure the programme is as inclusive as possible, the school day was officially extended to 4.45pm on Wednesdays, with even the school buses being rescheduled to arrive an hour later to pick up students.

The school has seen a take up of more than 90% of the 45 different activities on offer, which range from golf and yoga to creative writing and ultimate frisbee.

Steve Brown, assistant head at St James, said they were delighted with the outcomes from the first few weeks of the enrichment programme.

“We have seen some incredible results for our students through the enrichment activities. We’re very grateful to our staff for all their hard work in helping to put this on and for the dedicated support from Live and Move to help us set up the sessions and keep us focussed on what we wanted to achieve.

He added: “In the future we would like to develop the programme further and promote the projects in the local community, helping us to strengthen our local links and create more opportunities for school and community working.”

The programme takes place on a Wednesday for 90 minutes and is based on a termly rota, where students are encouraged to take part in an elective from three categories; active, creative, skills and service, across the course of a year. The Live and Move funding has enabled the school to buy in local expertise and equipment, such as Momma Truckers who support skating, new cricket equipment, access to the gym and strength training and sessions with the local karate and kickboxing centres.

The school has also worked with Ride On, the Exeter-based cycling charity to support some of its most vulnerable students. The group gains confidence through fixing their own bikes and riding safely around the city. With school funding and generosity from Saddles and Paddles on Exeter Quay there is now a fleet of eight bikes to enable students to have access to a bike, who otherwise would not.

Jon Bishop, Head of Engineering Design & Technology at St James explains; “This has been a really rewarding part of the initiative; one of our current group includes a refugee from Afghanistan who speaks very little English, but who has shown great interest in being in the workshop during which time teachers have been able to make a common connection.

“The bike maintenance and electives really help with students’ confidence and attendance, but also provides an opportunity for those who don’t have the money to do these activities.”

The most confident students will be taken on as volunteers and will help students in the future, as well as staff.

Live and Move and St James are working with Sparx and Plymouth University to assess the impact of the programme. The school is so pleased with the initial outcomes that it is looking at how to fund it in the future.

Lindsay Skinner, Headteacher at St James added: “Research has shown that the wellbeing of many students living in our catchment is worryingly below that of the national average. Many students were already disadvantaged, something which has only been exacerbated by the pandemic. As a school we are doing all we can to reduce this disadvantage and we are extremely grateful to those organisations who continue to support us.”