Wednesday 09 Sep
Updated Wednesday 09 Sep 14:56

West Ham brings new mental health focus to Primary Stars

Across the past few months research has shown that a majority of people have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic on some level, and that includes children. Whether it’s experiencing disruption to their education, social life, home life or routine, they’ve been dealing with a great deal of change and for most that’s been difficult.

As schools return, the West Ham United Foundation’s Premier League Primary Stars team are gearing up to begin their inclusive delivery. However, in a year like no other, it won’t be business as usual and this is reflected through a newly developed package with a stronger focus on mental health.

Jill Sapsford oversees the Foundation’s Premier League Primary Stars outreach and explained: “We’ve had a lot of conversations across our networks which concluded that mental health of young people has become an increasing concern over the last few months. Therefore, within this year’s PLPS outreach we’ve added a mental health oriented package.

“From the pandemic to the inequalities that have been brought to the surface, in recent times this is something schools haven’t faced on this scale before. Therefore, within this year’s Primary Stars outreach we’ve added a mental health oriented package to create three available areas of support, all of which can be picked up through targeted funding that schools can access.”

Using the appeal of West Ham United and the Premier League, the Premier League Primary Stars programme looks to inspire girls and boys of all abilities, aged 5-11, in the classroom, the playground and on the sports field. 

In the last 12 months, through the Club’s Players’ Project initiative whereby men’s, women’s and academy players are ambassadors for key strands of community outreach, a number of players have taken part in sessions. Prior to lockdown this included attending schools while during lockdown video engagement was utilised, with the likes of Alisha Lehmann, Jarrod Bowen, David Martin and Tunji Akinola making appearances.

Speaking at an activity at a local primary school prior to lockdown, David Martin said: “I’m from this area originally, so to make a difference to people in my community is a big satisfaction for me. It was great to be involved with the pupils, trying to make a difference for them, and for us to be able to come here and see what it means to them is another plus.”

This year, with four in five children (80%) saying they are worried about what happens as they come out of lockdown and return to schools (according to Youth Sport Trust), the Foundation has made some changes and produced three packages which can be tailored according to each schools’ needs.

Continuing from last year is PE teacher support; assisting teachers to provide high quality PE that highlights the social and psychological aspects of physical education. To take this up schools can access the PE and School Sport Premium funding that is due to continue for the next academic year.

There’s also a numeracy and literacy interventions package available. Within this, the Foundation’s teaching resources align with the National Curriculum, covering topics from English and Maths and include bespoke programmes like Premier League Primary Stars’ Reading Stars (developed in partnership with the National Literacy Trust). Schools can use the COVID catch-up premium government funding to implement this.

Finally, the latest addition is Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education interventions – an initiative which combines the Foundation’s Healthy Hammers Healthy Lifestyles scheme and their new Healthy Hammers Healthy Minds scheme; providing a six-week programme consisting of 45 minutes of classroom education with 45 minutes of education related activities. PE and School Sport Premium funding can also be utilised with this option. 

The new package’s sole aim is raising awareness of mental health amongst young people, opening up conversations around the importance of physical and mental wellbeing, giving participants a safe platform to express their views and the tools to improve their mindset. 

Jill added: “We believe we can make even more of a difference in this year’s offering and that there are a range of benefits to schools adding these bespoke models of support to their service; from improving skillsets and opportunities within the school, to reducing pressure on teachers, to students feeling that their mental health is prioritised, to improving parents’ confidence, and lessening the strain on the NHS. 

“Our team is wholly committed to helping schools to continue to effectively support their children.” 

To sign up or request more information please contact the West Ham United Foundation’s Premier League Primary Stars Senior Schools Development Officer, Jill Sapsford [email protected]