A Paisley nursery that has excelled in putting children’s social and emotional learning at the heart of all it does has been awarded Model School status.
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Hugh Smiley Early Learning and Childcare Centre (ELCC) is the first nursery in the UK to achieve the accolade, which has been earned over the past four years as the early learning setting has successfully integrated the PATHS Programme for Schools within everyday nursery life.

By linking with play experiences within nursery, the programme supports children from a young age to raise awareness of their feelings and helps them to develop self-regulation skills.

Three primary schools in Renfrewshire – Kirklandneuk Primary in Renfrew, Glencoats Primary in Paisley and Barsail Primary in Erskine – have also been awarded Model School status, with the award additionally recognising the continued efforts of schools to focus on children’s wellbeing throughout recent lockdowns.

Photo: Kirklandneuk Primary School
Photo: Hugh Smiley ELCC

Delivery of the PATHS is supported by specialist coaches from Barnardo’s. Age-appropriate activities with pupils are designed to help children’s development in learning to regulate their emotions, boost self-esteem, increase their emotional awareness and teach them problem-solving skills, including within relationships and friendships, improving the mental health of nursery and primary school pupils.

There are now 10 schools in Renfrewshire, including Hugh Smiley nursery that have achieved Model School recognition, with the PATHS Programme currently running in 36 schools and nurseries in the area in total.

Staff and pupils from the nursery and schools were presented with their awards by a Programme Co-ordinator from Barnardo’s, who has been working to support staff over the past four years to embed the programme into everyday learning.

Tracey Elliot, Early Years Worker at Hugh Smiley ELCC said: “We have embedded the PATHS Programme strongly within the curriculum and children have learned how to self-regulate and manage their emotions during their play and learning experiences. The children have been learning all about mindfulness, recognising emotions and developing coping strategies to use when feeling anxious or stressed.

“We knew it was vital to continue the programme during lockdown, ensuring communication between nursery and home was ongoing and this allowed us to continue to offer support and develop positive relationships with our families, more so now than ever.”

Photo: Glencoats Primary School
Photo: Barsail Primary School

Karen MacKechnie, Head Teacher at Kirklandneuk Primary School said: “Working with the PATHS® Programme team has provided our children, staff and parents with the opportunity to develop vital skills for learning, life and work. This highly structured approach continues to have a significant positive impact on our children’s ability to self-regulate and problem solve in a range of social and emotional situations. We are delighted to have been awarded Model School status and recognise this has been achieved as a team and community.”

Jamie Smith, Principal Teacher at Glencoats Primary School said: “We are delighted at being recognised for our hard work in implementing the PATHS Programme over the last few years. We have tried to make the PATHS Programme as visible as possible with our Pupil of the Day identifiers and informing parents of our work.”

Mrs Mavers, Head Teacher at Barsail Primary School said: “This prestigious award reflects our whole school nurturing ethos and the high importance on which we place wellbeing. The programme and our relationship policy provide a consistent approach and language at our school, which has had a positive impact on the Barsail family.”

Councillor Jim Paterson, convener of Renfrewshire Council’s Education and Children’s Services Policy Board, said: “Through our continued focus on promoting emotional literacy across Renfrewshire schools and nurseries, we are supporting children and young people to know and understand how to regulate their emotions, be resilient and make good choices.

“Achieving Worldwide Model School status is a fantastic achievement in recognition of the schools and nurseries outstanding commitment to social and emotional learning.”

Photo Credits: Photos supplied by Barnardo’s