Pupils are thriving at a school which is trying out a new curriculum to make them more resilient and ready for the world.
The Leigh Academy in Dartford is part of a pilot project which sees 10,000 pupils from around the country educated in a new lesson, called healthy minds.
Now in its third year, pupils and teachers are already noticing a difference between those who are taking part and those who are not.
Stuart Lindars is one of the school’s vice-principals and is leading the curriculum within Da Vinci College.
It tackles issues from depression and anxiety, behaviour and self-control, being optimistic and accurate thinking to sex education, relationships and drug awareness.
Noah Joseph and Amrita Kaur-Atwal, both 13, have been in the project from the start and are now in Year 9.
Noah said: “Social media is also a big topic and our teacher described it as a knife. You can use it in good ways, with cooking, and bad ways like stabbings, so you’ve got to be careful with how you use it.”
Amrita said: “I’m careful on social media but if a friend posted something I didn’t think was right I would say something to them.
“I’m not one to hold back, and I’d appreciate it if somebody did the same for me.”
When asked if the pupils enjoyed their lessons last year 93% said yes, and 87% also agreed they made them more positive and more resilient.
Noah said: “They’re relaxed lessons – you get one-to-one time with your teacher and you feel like you can open up and talk.”
At the end of the four-year trial the results will be analysed by the London School of Economics to see if the project is worth expanding nationally, but Mr Lindars said he has already noticed positive differences in the behaviour of pupils in Da Vinci.
The school, which is under the umbrella of the Leigh Academies Trust, has been able to monitor the number of recorded incidents in each college.
Last year Da Vinci had considerably fewer.
The number of pupils who had to be sent home on one-day exclusions also fell last year by 55%.
Amrita said: “A lot of people are dealing with their own personal difficulties. People come up in Year 7 and they’re excited or shy and sometimes they’re not always very nice, but they’ve become so much nicer through this and we’ve become friends with those people.
“Most of your group get on with each other, and if we argue it’s done and over with that day. But with the other colleges there is always a lot more going on.”
While “citizenship” or PSHE classes are not a new concept, the format of healthy minds with regular dedicated lessons, a set curriculum and specially trained teachers, is.
Principal Sharon Waterman said: “Academic grades are important but so is making our children resilient and able to tackle the challenges they will face in this world.”