Helen Whitney and Lesley Howard from Each Amazing Breath and Jim Morgan Senior Development Officer from Belfast Health Development Unit attended the launch of Amazing Breath- Take 5 in schools. Sacred Heart are the second school to embrace this amazing project which has had immense benefit to the children of Sacred Heart Boys’ Primary School. It is a celebration of the strength, resilience, leadership and warmth of the children and staff at Sacred Heart Primary School, and the successful impact that this project has had on the staff and children of Sacred Heart. It is important to understand the difficulties facing our society and school at the moment and why we strive to think outside the box, with even less money to provide for our young people in schools.
Within the recent Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency in February 2018, out of the 100 most deprived areas on the Multiple Deprivation Measures we are number 2. This includes difficulties such as poverty, social exclusion, mental health issues, addiction, anti-social behaviour, violence, which all has an impact on our children and can lead to a range of issues relating to social, emotional and behavioural difficulties. Currently with SH we have 70% on FSM, 9% with mental health issues and 33% of SEN.
For us as a staff we continuously want to promoting social and emotional learning in children to boost their emotional intelligence which would not only improve their learning abilities, it would also help them succeed in school by reducing or eliminating some of the most distracting behaviours which are having a direct impact on our children and increasingly becoming a barrier to learning
So for us at Sacred Heart TAKE 5 in Schools provides us with a tool to help promote social and emotional learning – which in turn is leading to the provision of better opportunities for teaching and learning.
Take 5 involves a breathing technique that helps children to calm down, to be ready to learn whilst feeling safe and happy. It also helps them deal with anger and it became a more powerful tool as the children themselves began to lead the practices.
The aim of Take Five is to grow your skills in the awareness of yourself in each moment. It is being able to recognize and self-reflect when we are feeling out of balance or out of our own power, and then having choices to know what we need to do in that moment, whether it is breathing, grounding, or walking away.
As they project developed we began to see notable changes in how the children’s sense of personal capabilities and wellbeing began to improve, as did the embedding of the practice, and it was obvious that it was making a significant impact.
Quantitative data was compiled from the feedback on a weekly basis from staff and children over a 6 week period. The results were huge across the 3 classes of P4,5 and P6, with an average whole class reporting a 17-23% reduction in stress in their body with one class reporting an average increase of 10% in the ability to cope with unexpected change. All 3 classes reported between 6-11% increases in feeling positive about themselves. It is important to note that these are averages over the 6 weeks , however we saw marked increases of over 40-50% from weeks 4-6 in all 3 classes.
Overall the practice of Take 5 is showing evidence of building resilience, reducing stress and ensuring that the children are ready to learn helping them to become more focused during lessons. It has provided an opportunity for reflection on their own behaviour and better choice making, whilst also encouraging confidence in their leadership of the practice and promoting peer to peer support.
It has enabled the children to recognise and facilitate emotional development and they have developed a real understanding of their emotions which is leading to better management of their emotions. Children are asking, and on occasions even suggesting to their peers to “Take 5 and do some breathing”.
One child in particular has started to self-calm himself and another child has stated that it “he doesn’t panic over his class tests now, as he knows he can use Take 5.” Some children are displaying more happiness, attempting challenges within their work, understanding their emotions more with one child using Take 5 at home with his parents.
It is helping to provide happiness with the world and within themselves, even amid the constant changes that are swirling about children today.
As a principal watching staff take this on board, developing it and believing in it has been amazing!
All the staff, have been totally committed to this project and they along with the children have brought it alive.
It really is embedded into our curriculum, our polices and our school day.
The Ambassadors have since designed and created their own breathing cards specific to Sacred Heart and these are used to guide the classes through the process. We aim to continue with Take 5 throughout the school and intend to train some children to become Champions of Take Five. We are also aiming to a school or good practice where other schools can come and see how successful it has been for the children and staff at Sacred Heart Boys’ Primary School.
For us, TAKE 5 is so much more than breathing practices, it has encouraged our children to take ownership of their actions and thoughts which has been very powerful in bringing the programme alive leading to a fantastic impact.
Everyday we at Sacred Heart are aiming to create the space and opportunities for our children to develop and flourish to be the best that they can be- Take 5 at school is now one of the tools that we can say we use, with confidence to help our young people:
to build resilience; to develop a skills set; a knowledge and an understanding to grow into confident, respectful and engaging adults throughout their lives.
For us at Sacred Heart Boys’ Primary School the richness of the Amazing Breath technique is that they breathe, they share, and they look out for each other.
It helps bridge the gap between daily struggles and lasting mental wellbeing, building a capacity to realise their own inner strengths, and create for themselves positivity and a healthy wellbeing.