A pioneering programme to help young people in Wolverhampton cope with the trials and tribulations of modern life is delivering impressive results.

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The HeadStart Wolverhampton team have been holding lessons in local schools aimed at improving pupils' resilience by giving them the skills they need to cope with the problems they face.

And initial feedback is overwhelmingly positive, with teachers reporting that pupils are dealing with situations better, which in turn is having a beneficial impact on their learning.

Councillor Val Gibson, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: "Improving the health and wellbeing of our young people, and giving them the skills they need to succeed in life, are priorities for the council.

"We know that many of our young people are at risk of poor mental health because of issues like bullying and low self esteem and the HeadStart programme is playing a key role in helping them overcome this.

"Since the programme launched in 2014, the HeadStart team has worked with thousands of pupils aged 9 to 14 across 16 pilot schools, holding a range of sessions aimed at giving pupils the skills they need to deal with change, build relationships and tackle problems causing depression and anxiety.

"In addition, more than 250 pupils have been trained to support their peers in the last year.

"I'm delighted to hear that teachers are reporting that it is having a tremendous impact, with pupils taking greater responsibility for their actions and their life.

"Evaluation carried out by the University of Wolverhampton also gives clear evidence of young people using their new coping strategies and social and emotional skills to modify their behaviour and improve their relationships, both in school and with their friends and family."

She added: "HeadStart isn't just about making the pupils feel better about themselves during the lessons, but giving them skills for life. Children cannot succeed at school if they are being bullied or having to deal with other things going on in their head, and we hope that giving them coping mechanisms will also lead to improved educational attainment and attendance levels."

The work in schools is just one aspect of the HeadStart programme. Across Wolverhampton, 15 HeadStart projects are currently being delivered in the community, mostly by voluntary organisations commissioned by the council.

They have reached more than 700 children and young people, and that number is increasing as more schemes are launched.

These have engaged hundreds of disengaged young people and parents over the last few months, leading to a range of positive outcomes, including children stopping self harming and developing the confidence to stand up to playground bullies and parents developing new skills to help their children deal with stress.

The City of Wolverhampton Council was given £500,000 by The Big Lottery Fund last year to establish a series of pilot HeadStart projects which would test different ways of improving young people's resilience.

It has since received a further £400,000 and the programme will continue until the end of July 2016, though the council hopes to extend it for a further 5 years and is preparing a bid for between £6 million and £10 million to Big Lottery for additional funding.

For more information about HeadStart, please visit Type=links;Linkid=6584;Title=HeadStart;Target=_blank; or follow on Twitter at @headstartfm.

  • released: Tuesday 17 November, 2015