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Bouncing Back Plus classroom and exercise programme boosting Swansea primary school children

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As Action for Children marks Mental Health Awareness Week (7-13 Feb), the charity’s latest mental health programme for young people in Wales, Bouncing Back Plus has been rolled out in the Swansea area thanks to an innovative partnership with Ospreys in the Community.

The charity has teamed up with the rugby region’s community arm to deliver a combination of classroom-based Cognitive and Dialectical behavioural therapy (CBT and DBT) techniques and physical exercises such as touch rugby on the playground.

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At the end of each Bouncing Back Plus programme, each participant receives a Mental Health First Aid Kit, providing them with resources that support them to manage their mood and sustain improvements in their emotional wellbeing. The process also supports us to identify those young people who may need a higher-tier intervention.

Ffion, 10, attends Pontlliw Primary School near Swansea and said: ‘I like the outdoor exercise as there’s loads of technology and everyone wants to sit down but now the Ospreys have come, I do prefer being outside playing rugby. It really helps me, it makes me feel really happy and I feel like it makes me a better person.’

Another pupil at Pontlliw, Tyler, 11, added: ‘I thought the classroom session was fun and interesting. It made me feel really good and I liked the rugby too.’ His friend Jacob, 10, agreed. He said: ‘It was a really fun experience learning how to control anger or how to be kind to people. I liked the songs and the strategies on how to calm down too.’

Caryl Dyer, Action for Children’s Bouncing Back service coordinator, said: ‘We are delighted to have been able to expand on the success of our Bouncing Back project by working with the Ospreys to produce a programme that combines the classroom and the playground to maximum effect for our year 5 and 6 primary school children.

‘They have developed a shared understanding of emotional wellbeing, resilience and increased confidence. The children are also taught skills to reduce the impact of emotional distress as well as being given a greater awareness of how and when to seek further support if needed. The physical exercise element complements this approach beautifully and outcomes are evidenced through distance travelled and shared with individual schools.’

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Leanne Evans, Year 6 teacher at Pontlliw Primary School, said: ‘Bouncing Back Plus has given the children an immense bank of strategies to deal with stress or anything they feel concerned or worries about. It’s particularly valuable as since Covid, we’ve had an increase in children needing counselling for anxiety. I’ve seen the children in the yard using the strategies independently and when they come into the class, they’re quite calm so for us it’s been outstanding.

‘The physical aspect has been amazing too as we’ve hard on them releasing endorphins on the ‘daily mile’ so once they’ve done their Ospreys session outside, they’re focussed, engaged and on-task. Children don’t tend to like PE because they see it as a separate part of the curriculum and another lesson. This is under the umbrella of health and wellbeing and the join in and give it 100% commitment as they don’t see it as being taught. As a result, children want to go the stadium and see the Ospreys and love that their staff are coming to the school, it’s really special.’

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