Eastbourne College and St Andrew’s Prep have been honoured with a national award for their range of unique initiatives to boost overall wellbeing.

Both schools now hold the Wellbeing Award for Schools, which recognises outstanding work to promote mental health and wellbeing within school communities in England, granted by Optimus Education in partnership with the National Children’s Bureau.

Eastbourne College was applauded for its flexible and tailored support for pupils and their families, as well as the various programmes introduced in addition to the school counselling service, with older pupils taking on the role of mentor for younger ones.

These include Whizz Kids, where Year 11 pupils offer support to younger pupils in their house, Year 13 pupils who take responsibility as peer listeners and the Listening Service, where trained staff and pupils provide an ear to those who need to talk. The online Teen Tips hub was also recognised as a valuable service for pupils and parents, aiding understanding on issues linked to mental health and wellbeing.

Gwen Taylor Hall, deputy head (pastoral) at Eastbourne College, said: “This award is the culmination of a huge team effort involving pupils, staff and parents raising the profile of wellbeing by acknowledging what wellbeing looks like for themselves and for those around them. Key to this is offering the right support for our pupils and encouraging them to talk. We are absolutely delighted to have got the award. 

“Staff want to support pupils’ development and recognise that learning is only possible when everyone is comfortable and cared for. We’re proud to have several trained Mental Health First Aiders on our team.”

Senior prefects run a ‘Wellbeing Wednesday’ programme to provide a mid-week lift, with fun activities and competitions – from yoga to treasure hunts to karaoke. Other wellbeing programmes include the Eastbourne College Mind Gym, offering a space where pupils can have one-to-one discussions on issues affecting their sport – providing a vehicle to talk about mental health and normalise these conversations.

St Andrew’s Prep was praised for its peer support groups, including Maths buddies, reading buddies and a Play Leaders scheme, where older pupils buddy up with younger ones at playtime, the Snug for pupils to drop in and more formal listening appointments with a member of staff, plus its coffee and cake parenting course.

Tom Lawson, headmaster of Eastbourne College, said: “Wellbeing is built into our founding ethos – our school motto is ‘Ex Oriente Salus’, meaning ‘safety’ or ‘health from the east’, so we’re delighted to receive the Wellbeing Award for Schools.

“Alongside our support services, we hold wellbeing sessions and assemblies to help remove stigma around mental health.

“We’re also proud to call ourselves a ‘Blue Health’ school, providing opportunities for every pupil to get a healthy balance every day and lots of time in the great outdoors – proven to boost wellbeing. We’re lucky to have the beach and the South Downs on our doorstep.” 

Tom Gregory, headmaster at St Andrew’s Prep, said: “In the process of gaining this award, we’ve had some lovely feedback from parents about our staff and how responsive and supportive they are.

“It’s wonderful to be recognised for our dedication to wellbeing, which sits at the forefront of our educational programme.”