AWARENESS of mental health is at the forefront of a Silkstone school, which is why it has made it onto the shortlist for the Proud of Barnsley Awards.

Silkstone Primary School is nestled on top of a small hill off the village’s High Street, and has been nominated for its mental health initiative and the development of its garden area - as it has gone from a wasteland to a spacious area with benches, plants, a shed and more to benefit the children and enhance their mental well-being

Sally Adams, head teacher at the school, said: “The garden has been a bit of a wasteland for several years.

“I have been here two years and last year we decided we wanted to develop the garden, but we are the second lowest-funded school in Barnsley so we funded this through charitable donations.

“We have transformed a space that was completely unused so now it provides respite from the busy playground and a calm area. It also supports our learning in terms of art and science and fits in with our mental health strategy in providing that space.

“We have some raised beds in the garden so what we want to do in the summer is plant those up and the produce from that will be sent to the Barnsley drop-in centre for their foodbank.”

The main aspect for the garden, Sally says, is helping children with their mental health.

“They are having that area to relax, which is great.

“They really enjoyed working with Twiggs - a professional landscaping, maintenance and environmental service - and they developed a wildlife area. They loved that.”

Bernie Hays, cover supervisor and mental health well-being ambassador, said: “It’s a quiet time for them as well.

“Some children just need some alone time so it gives them the opportunity to do that.”

As well as helping to enhance children’s wellbeing with the garden, the school also has ‘worry monsters’ in every class.

Worry monsters are stuffed creatures with zips across their mouths. If any children have concerns or worries they are asked to write them down and pop them in the monster’s mouths.

“It’s giving them the freedom to talk about things, which they may not be used to or might have not had before,” said Bernie.

“It opens the door and it teaches them that it is okay to talk about things that are bothering them. They know it’s a good thing to talk.

“Sometimes children just write down that they want to speak to an adult or they write how they are feeling, but it seems to have been helping them.”

As well as the ‘worry monsters’, the school has mental health ambassadors and also has circle time in each classroom so children can share their concerns and open up the conversation about mental health.

There is also a specific room where children can go to to speak to Bernie or other members of staff about how they’re feeling.

Speaking about the school making the shortlist for Proud of Barnsley, Sally said: “We are thrilled, we are surprised but we are really delighted about it.”