Mark Hall Academy: Young people have new space to take time out within their school

Education: Secondary / Sun 22nd May 2022 at 09:34am

The Orchard has been created within a former library at Mark Hall Academy, in Harlow, to offer students a range of learning interventions, emotional support and a safe space to reset and recharge.

Students will also have access to a guinea pig, dog, arts, crafts, Lego therapy and books and games, as well as sensory equipment as part of the brand-new venture.

The space will be used for interventions, one-to-one meetings, regulation time, quiet reading and mindfulness.

Assistant principal and SENCO Victoria Butler said: “It is a stunning new space, designed to support the needs of our students and, in particular, those with social, emotional and mental health needs. It was important to give students and staff a space for a moment of calm. 

“Mindfulness and wellbeing have always been front and centre. I wanted The Orchard to give everyone the feeling and sense of a big hug warm as they enter the building. We have been able to capture this in our reception area, themed based intervention spaces and sensory room. We have also tried to capture the hearts and minds through seasonal displays -students have decorated the building with spring butterflies, bugs and flowers. 

“I hope students will appreciate the time, love and care that has gone into giving them such a wonderful space to meet friends, chat to staff, talk to each other, form friendships and, above all, take a moment for themselves.

“The ripple effect of our new sensory room, we hope, will change the lives of our young people. It will allow our young people the chance to flourish.”

Students have scheduled sessions in The Orchard, with phonics, numeracy, handwriting, counselling and various therapies all on offer.

Daisy the therapy dog visits weekly to assist with paired reading and social, emotional and mental health support, along with school guinea pig Piggle.

During Lego therapy, students are encouraged to communicate and interact with each other while improving their resilience and wellbeing.

Marios Solomonides, BMAT director of SEND, said: “The SEND team at Mark Hall have fully embraced the notion of ‘the whole child’. Stepping into The Orchard is welcoming and inclusive, giving everyone a sense of belonging, irrespective of whether or not they have special educational needs or disabilities. Even as an adult, I feel that sense of belonging when I walk in; that sense of ‘I have value’ and ‘I add value’.”

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