Putting student wellbeing front and centre:
The Student Support Centre at Desborough College
The mental health of children and teenagers is, rightly, in the spotlight with research and statistics suggesting that a confluence of factors, including academic pressures and those of social media, is creating a mental health crisis among young people. Schools are naturally at the forefront of government plans to improve this generation’s mental health, with the proposal to have mental health leads in every school and additional resources in the pipeline. While no-one is quite sure how this will look in practice, the need for students to have access to support at school is unarguable. As well as the wider impact on health and wellbeing, negative emotional experiences have a serious impact on our ability to learn, so having somewhere to go when it all gets too much is crucial.
At Desborough College in Maidenhead, the student support centre was located in the middle of the school in a busy, congested area. Not the ideal space for a struggling student who needs some space and quiet time. An old caretaker’s bungalow at the edge of the site was identified as a possible location for a brand new student support centre. Its location at the perimeter of the school meant it would be away from the hubbub of the main buildings, could also be used for governor and community meetings and meant that multi-agency meetings could take place without their representatives having to traipse through the school.
The domestic scale of the new Support Centre makes it much more approachable than a large institutional building and because of the ‘cool’ café area there’s no stigma attached to going into the building.”
The old caretaker’s bungalow has been transformed inside.
A Fresh Start
The bungalow was derelict so Spaceoasis® stripped everything out to start with a blank canvas and hired the school’s highly successful Young Enterprise Team to help clear the overgrown garden. Getting the site clear was the first step in a plan to create a garden where the students can grow plants and vegetables. Having access to, and views of, nature has proven mental health benefits so a garden is the ideal complement to the support centre. Spaceoasis® knocked together the kitchen, living room and hall to create a large open plan café-style space through which you enter the Support Centre.
The kitchen is an attractive, comfortable space where students can relax, take a breath, have a cup of tea and seek support. What were bedrooms are now meeting rooms where private meetings can take place and an office for the support worker. The bathroom is now a DDA-compliant toilet. The crisp, clean aesthetic makes the Student Support Centre suitable for any audience from students, to parents, governors and external agencies; it’s a highly adaptable space.
The domestic scale of the new Support Centre makes it much more approachable than a large institutional building and because of the ‘cool’ café area there’s no stigma attached to going into the building. You might be struggling or troubled, but you might just as easily be a high flyer looking for help on how to stretch yourself, or fine tune your UCAS application. Support comes in many forms.
Not every school has a conveniently located bungalow just waiting to be repurposed but the idea of having an attractive, approachable space that is clearly defined as ‘here to support you’ makes it easier for young people to take that first step and ask for help. With mental health an established priority for schools, it’s more important than ever.