Cynon Valley primary school is first in the UK to be named as a School of Excellence for mental wellbeing

A South Wales primary school has been named as the first Thrive School of Excellence in the UK for the role it plays in supporting the wellbeing of its pupils in order to prevent mental health issues.


Penywaun Primary School, in Aberdare, was named as the first School of Excellence after going through a rigorous assessment process by Thrive®, which trains teachers and other education professionals to support the emotional and social development of all children. The award recognises extraordinary schools which are making a positive impact on their pupils, and on the wider community, by prioritising emotional wellbeing and creating an environment in which children’s wellbeing thrives.


Headteacher Craig Prichard said: “As a school, we decided about five or six years ago that we would prioritise the mental wellbeing of our children. This is an ethos that everyone has bought into and I think it’s apparent when you walk through our doors because there is a sense of calmness and community. For me, the results are what I see in school every day – it’s about raising children’s self-esteem and confidence and seeing them learn to manage their own emotions and to help friends to the same.”


The School of Excellence award is the highest level of achievement in Thrive’s Ambassador Schools scheme, which was launched last year as a way of recognising excellence in member schools. There are five areas in which schools can evidence how they use Thrive to support children’s social and emotional development: Environment, Leadership, Right-time, Reparative and Relationship, with the School of Excellence award reserved for schools that achieve the highest standard across all five categories.


As well as submitting an in-depth application form, the school was visited by Thrive staff, when allowed under coronavirus restrictions, to observe and assess the way that teachers and other staff implement the Thrive Approach® to help build the emotional resilience of children, so that they can better manage the ups and downs of life and be more open to learning.


The school’s achievement has also been recognised by Vikki Howells, MS for Cynon Valley. She said: “As a former teacher myself, I am familiar with the Thrive Approach and have seen first-hand the transformational benefits that it can bring to pupils’ mental wellbeing, self-confidence, attendance, behaviour and engagement with learning. I am delighted that Penywaun Primary School has made such great use of Thrive, and that pupils and staff have experienced so many positive impacts as a result.

“Happy pupils are key to a happy school, and a happy school is the foundation upon which excellence in learning is able to be established. Well done to all staff and pupils who have enabled Penywaun Primary to become the first Thrive School of Excellence in the UK.”


“Penywaun is a school that has made a real commitment to prioritising children’s mental wellbeing and, as a result, has seen improved attainment and attendance as well as a drop in fixed-term exclusions and behaviour problems. The staff and pupils richly deserve this award because everyone at the school has come together to create a really positive environment where all children thrive,” said Joey Bowers, Thrive’s Relationship Manager for Wales.

Craig Prichard, headteacher of Penywaun Primary School. 


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Team @ AberdareOnline

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