There are myriad ways in which Jigsaw helps children learn about mental health; and these lessons more than cover the requirements set out in the latest government guidance on teaching about mental health. For example, each lesson plan states clearly which of the five emotional literacy domains it contains so that it is clear of the purpose of that lesson in terms of children’s development, not just their ‘knowledge learning’. Confidence in oneself and awareness of self – the backbones of good mental health – are sometimes tricky concepts for children (and adults!) to adopt. However, a tried-and-tested method is used in Jigsaw and is proving to be invaluable when helping children to become more successful in all aspects of their lives, not just as learners. The practice of mindfulness, where children learn to be in the present moment without judgement, is taught in every Jigsaw lesson – through the Calm Me time, through visualisation and through breathing techniques. The Jigsaw Approach is underpinned by mindfulness which aims to empower children to learn now and improve their life-chances later, and to help them develop personal awareness. Mindfulness practice enables them to observe their own thoughts and feelings, regulate them and make conscious decisions about their learning, behaviour and lives. It helps them to remain focused on the present moment and thrive in it.
The Healthy Me Puzzle is where most of the ‘traditional’ health promotion lessons are. From the Eat Well plate and the importance of physical activity for a healthy body (and mind) in the earlier year groups, to the more sophisticated health messages about choice, lifestyle and mental and emotional health promotion in the older year groups, children gain a fully experiential approach to holistic health in Jigsaw – and how it is their responsibility to care for
The latest guidance recommends that schools needs to teach social and emotional skills. These skills are too important to only be learnt by osmosis, which is why Jigsaw develops them in a structured and developmental way throughout every year group. A programme like Jigsaw can be so helpful to schools, because it sets out exactly how children learn best and how to teach skills that lead to better social, emotional and mental health. Each lesson plan states clearly which of the five emotional literacy domains it contains so that it is clear of the purpose of that lesson in terms of children’s development, not just their ‘knowledge learning’. Additionally, everything that schools do in Jigsaw can be linked to positive behaviour policy (which is where the Learning Charter work in Being Me in My World is so useful). More intensive intervention work with more vulnerable children is needed, to ensure that all children’s needs are met – at a universal and a targeted level.
Schools can be confident that a focus on well-being and mental health not only enables them to provide healthy and happy school environments for pupils and staff and prepare the citizens of tomorrow with sound character and values, but also directly supports their more immediate mission, which is shared by Jigsaw: the promotion of effective learning.