pupil wellbeing

School Pilot Aims to Boost Pupil Wellbeing and Social Skills

PAG StaffArticle, Case Studies, DfE, free schools, Inequalities, Leadership, Schools

School Pilot Aims to Boost Pupil Wellbeing and Social Skills 

All Saints Catholic College, located near Ladbroke Grove in North Kensington, is launching a 10-week pilot program that aims to extend school hours and ban phones in an effort to improve pupil wellbeing and enhance communication skills. The initiative, designed to somewhat mimic a "private school service" at a fraction of the cost, includes a full-day schedule packed with meals, academic tuition, and extracurricular activities.

Extended Hours, an Enriched Curriculum, and a Focus on Wellbeing

Under the leadership of Head teacher Andrew O'Neill, the voluntary-aided school will offer an extended day that runs up to 11 hours, including breakfast and a "family dinner." Participation in the program is voluntary, with students not required to attend the entire day, but for a nominal fee of £10 per week, students can engage in a variety of activities designed to foster both academic and personal growth. The program, supported by local council and educational charities, will cater to children in years 7 and 8.

One of the key features of the pilot is the banning of mobile phone use during school hours. O'Neill highlighted the increasing anxiety among pre-teens and teenagers since 2010, linked to the rise of smartphone use, and by removing phones from the school day, the initiative aims to help students focus on in-person interactions and activities that promote good mental health.

Award-Winning Leadership  

Mr. O'Neill, who received the Pearson National Teaching Gold Award for Secondary Headteacher of the Year in 2022, emphasised the goal of providing state school students with opportunities commonly available in private schools, including structured time for homework, sports, and other engaging activities. O'Neill also noted the challenging context in which many of the school’s students live, with a significant portion eligible for free school meals, underscoring the importance of accessible, quality education and pupil wellbeing as well as a warm, walcoming environment outside of school hours.

Pilot Duration and Future Implications  

The initiative has garnered support from the local government and education charities, enabling it to be offered at minimal cost to families, while the Department for Education has also expressed support for measures that create distraction-free learning environments, which aligns with the school’s approach to banning mobile phones and improving overall wellbeing. The program will be assessed after its 10-week run to determine its feasibility for longer-term implementation, with O'Neill mentioning the financial constraints that limit the program's duration but expressing hope that the positive impacts on student wellbeing and academic performance might lead to continued support and possibly, wider adoption.

Clearly, All Saints Catholic College’s pilot program represents a bold step towards rethinking traditional schooling by extending educational and personal development opportunities within the state education system, aiming to equip students with the skills and experiences necessary for both academic success and personal wellbeing. While the initial headlines of 11-hour days seems jarring, an attempt to level the playing field while providing welcoming, vital services and environments to children who may struggle for these things elsewhere should be commended and ultimately, represents a fascinasting, and perhaps groundbreaking, experiment to be watched closely.