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Cardiff high school invests £1.7m in mental health support for students

Students at a Cardiff secondary school will get extra help for their mental health and wellbeing needs thanks to a £1.7m investment in new facilities.

Mary Immaculate High School has expanded its on-site nurture facility, called The Bridge, to offer tailored support and intervention to a greater number of students.

The specialist provision caters for students with emotional, mental health and wellbeing issues.

Staff offer a range of intervention strategies to help students overcome barriers to learning, while also nurturing them to be ready for the real world.

The Bridge also offers a sanctuary for students who need extra support and comfort.

Demand for the service has risen since the Covid-19 pandemic, with more students experiencing anxiety and other mental health issues.

Before the pandemic, an average of 20 students per year group were receiving regular interventions at The Bridge. Now that number has risen to more than 50.

The expansion includes a new outdoor area as well as intervention rooms that will allow staff to help individual students in private.

Nadia Yassien, head of The Bridge, said: “It’s important we have this extra space to utilise different interventions, which will allow us to help with the more complex needs our students have.
“COVID increased the number of students with mental health and wellbeing issues, particularly anxiety. There are also a lot more young carers now. We are also seeing a lot of the negative impacts of social media, from cyberbullying to unrealistic expectations.

“We will never give up on any student, even if takes them until year 11 to turn around. They need to know they are going to be listened to and supported throughout their school journey.

“With the expansion our partnerships with outside agencies are able to work with pupils in privacy, including mental health services, social services, specialist teams, educational psychologists and the Baxter Project, to name a few.”

Staff at The Bridge work hard to build relationships with parents and carers, as well as developing partnerships with outside agencies, including the educational psychology service, mental health services, school nurse teams, social services, and police community liaison officers.

The Bridge was recently recognised by schools inspectorate Estyn for its effective practice in removing barriers to learning.*

Huw Powell, Headteacher of Mary Immaculate, said: “We are proud of The Bridge and what it has achieved for our students in terms of removing barriers to learning and giving them the support and comfort they need.

“We are grateful to the local authority for recognising the value of The Bridge and for providing the investment to help it expand.

“With this much-needed expansion, The Bridge can properly fulfil its role as a sanctuary within our school and allow us to support even more students.”

A spokesperson for Cardiff Council said: “Protecting the mental health and wellbeing of Cardiff’s children and young people is of the upmost importance, and our decision to invest £1.7m in The Bridge at Mary Immaculate High School is further evidence of that commitment being put into action.

“The local authority managed the tender process to build the new facility, and with partners worked closely with the school to ensure that the designs fully met requirements.

“The investment in The Bridge has created additional provision for the children and young people in Cardiff who can benefit from tailored strategic interventions to improve their educational outcomes.”