Supporting the mental health and wellbeing of the youngest in our communities

Pupil counselling: Supporting the wellbeing of the youngest in our communities

Our latest research with over 6,000 schools has revealed that pupil mental health, wellbeing and pupil counselling are top support priorities this academic year. However, you know that effectively supporting pupil wellbeing can put additional strain on schools who are already facing many challenges in ensuring the ongoing education of pupils, especially during these uncertain and challenging times. This is where we come in.

We sat down with Gail, our lead education practitioner, to learn more about Tiana’s* story, the impact of pupil counselling in school, as well as some creative techniques and exercises. You can use these insights to build upon your own and/or get in touch to find out how we can support your school.


The negative impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on pupil mental health and wellbeing have far-reaching consequences on pupil learning, education, school-life, and even future life chances. Although the Department for Education has recommended that schools continually plan for and prioritise pupil wellbeing, we know that schools already have many things to focus on, as well as time and budget constraints.

Working closely with school staff and families alike, we’ve been delivering counselling to primary pupils in Tower Hamlets, many of whom come from families who are facing housing precariousness or financial exclusion. With the many ups and downs that schools have faced this year, with schooling disrupted for so many pupils, we are really proud that we can support the mental health and wellbeing of the youngest in our communities this year.

Classroom display Pupil counselling: Why and how 

Could you share more about the impact of pupil counselling? And what types of challenges have pupils been facing?

There is a similarity in a lot of cases that when we go to uncover the root cause, it’s often to do with self-confidence, self-esteem, not feeling safe, not feeling secure. So, kind of like the foundations of people. Alot of these referrals come with outbursts of aggression or tearfulness or being withdrawn and then when we go back, it always seems to be that the person isn’t confident; doesn’t have good self-esteem; doesn’t have good relationships at home; communication is poor; not being able to talk about emotions; not connecting how emotions feel within ourselves; responding to certain things in a negative way; and so on. It all has a big impact, and it all seems to go back to the same feeling of loneliness, fearfulness and not feeling sort of…there. Not feeling not protected, not nurtured, and often never ever enough praise and competence within the home.

“When we go to uncover the root cause, it’s often to do with self-confidence, self-esteem, not feeling safe, not feeling secure. So, kind of like the foundations of people.”

Describe any techniques, activities, and methods that have worked well with the children so far?

So, I use a range of different techniques. I’ve been using breathing exercises. I’ve been using sound therapy at the start of the sessions to get them calm and feeling safe so they’re able to talk. I’m using a lot of exercise with self-esteem and self-worth. So, looking at their qualities at their strengths, asking teachers and parents to praise them on this so that they encourage their positive traits to come out.

Also, in school we did the ‘Tree of Life’ and each branch had something different on it. And every time the children came to the sessions, they had to create leaves with an answer to each branch. So, one branch was ‘leave a kind word,’ one branch was ‘tell me something positive about yourself today,’ one was ‘tell me what your dream is or your goal for this week’. One was ‘what does a good friend mean to you?’ And the other one was, ‘what are you grateful for today?’ So that was lovely.

“Every time the children came to the sessions, they had to create leaves with an answer to each branch. So, one branch was ‘leave a kind word’, one branch was ‘tell me something positive about yourself today’, one was ‘tell me what your dream is or your goal for this week.”

And I’ve been giving homework to the counselling children for their parents and them to do together. This includes lots of work about what their worries are to help the parents and children talk about their worries, and how we can help our worries, so they don’t grow. Also, what do we like about each other and what do we like about ourselves – so self-esteem, self-empowering sheets to send home.

How does children’s counselling differ from counselling older children/young adults?

When I’m working with younger children, I use more visual more games and more artwork. With the older children, I can do like more activities like what I was just speaking to you and if the parents get involved, we noticed significant changes, especially with the activities that I sent home. I noticed that the parents that engaged with that the children we really do see change.

Tiana’s story: Holistic techniques and amazing outcomes

Tiana* was experiencing high levels of stress and difficulty concentrating in school, partly due to her parent’s separation and mum’s low mental health. The holistic support which included pupil counselling aimed to improve Tiana’s confidence, emotional awareness, and relationships with others.

“I am able to talk about what is bothering me, and I have learnt that it’s better to talk about how you feel instead of holding your feelings inside.”

After just a few sessions, Tiana started to open up about what was bothering her and what she needed help with. Reflecting on the talking sessions, Tiana said that “this was good because it helped me talk about how I felt, and it makes me feel better in my time with Gail. I am able to talk about what is bothering me, and I have learnt that it’s better to talk about how you feel instead of holding your feelings inside.”

Working closely with Tiana’s teachers and parents, Gail introduced a range of creative and holistic activities. This included developing a vision board with Tiana’s hopes and wishes, as well as photographs to illustrate each vision. This project was a great way for the whole family to be able to look at what Savannah wanted for her future, for herself and her family.  “Tiana’s hopes and wishes were for Mum and Dad to get along with each other, for Tianna to be a film producer or artist when she gets older, for her whole family to get along, the importance of family, and to let go of worries,” explained Gail.

“Both Tiana’s parents and teachers have noticed that Tiana is happier and more confident… With 10 being  the highest level, Tiana’s score for overall stress went from 10 to 2, emotional distress from 6 to 0, and hyperactivity and concentration in class from 6 to 1.”

Due to  their consistency and hard work, the family played a key role in the success of the programme. Gail mentioned that the family implemented their new tools like the ‘emotion cards’ which helped them all express their feelings to one another, especially Tiana and mum. “I didn’t express my feelings at home but now with the emotions card I can pick one and we can just pick them up instead of just saying how I feel,” said Tianna. She adds, “Mum told me yesterday that she feels sad when I was leaving and this made me feel happy that she said this as she would never say anything like this to me before, so it made me feel that she really does miss me when I go.”

Overall, the support led to some amazing outcomes and both Tiana’s parents and teachers have noticed that Tiana is happier and more confident. With 10 being  the highest level, Tiana’s score for overall stress went from 10 to 2, emotional distress from 6 to 0, and hyperactivity and concentration in class from 6 to 1.

*Name has been changed to protect client identity.

To find out more about our education support in schools or if you have any questions about the above, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us to arrange an informal chat at: info@kineara.co.uk or call 020 3976 1450.