A SCHOOL in Rhyl has introduced a foodbank and expanded wellbeing rooms to help support pupils with mental health difficulties.

Rhyl High School talked about the new measures, which have been fully funded by the school, as well as pupil attendance figures - which have nosedived in recent years - as part of weekly news show BBC Wales Live which aired on Wednesday, October 11 at 8pm. 

Rhyl High School have seen a dip in pupil attendance. Adjustments are being made for children who struggle with routines, sleep routines and anxiety.

Rhyl Journal: Rhyl High SchoolRhyl High School (Image: Image: BBC Wales Live (screengrab) / file image)
Ceri Ellis, deputy head teacher at Rhyl High School, said: "We've definitely seen a huge increase in anxiety, poor self-esteem and mental health issues. We're six per cent down on our attendance from where we were this time four years ago with punctuality and pupils are really struggling to get in on time. 

"A lot of adjustment is needed for some children who struggle with routines, sleep routines and anxiety needing to come in a bit later when they are not involved in the crowds." 

One pupil said: "We missed the whole of year eight because we were at home working online. Most of us thought 'I can't be bothered doing work, I want to go on my Xbox, PlayStation' so as soon as we got to year 10, year 11, the work was a lot harder than year seven and we weren't use to it so most of our minds were thinking 'this is too stressful'."

Rhyl Journal: Ceri Ellis, deputy head teacher at Rhyl High School, talks about some of the challenges the school is facing.Ceri Ellis, deputy head teacher at Rhyl High School, talks about some of the challenges the school is facing. (Image: BBC Wales Live)
Another young person said: "I don't have much confidence or social skills because I missed going through high school and I didn't get to go out the house much because of Covid."

Rhyl High School have responded to the challenges being faced by doubling down on existing support services and wellbeing rooms - which are calm spaces, away from the classroom - have been expanded and expanded again.

The school now runs three designated areas.

Ms Ellis said: At any one time we've probably got about 300 children, close to the third of the school, that access some kind of intervention support service.

"Without doubt there has been an increase in children that have been presenting as experiencing mental health difficulties. What we are finding is that whilst the provision is growing, the need is growing as well."

The school have introduced a foodbank on site which teachers say can help them build positive connections with parents and children. But like the wellbeing rooms, this is being fully funded by the school and concerns are growing what future funding cuts might mean. 

Rhyl Journal: Claire Armitstead, headteacher, on the BBC Live programmeClaire Armitstead, headteacher, on the BBC Live programme (Image: BBC Wales Live (screengrab))
Claire Armitstead, headteacher, said: "Where children are having problems with their attendance, we will go and visit parents at home and we'll have those conversations. If they can't come into a big class, we'll take them to a small class areas and grow their confidence until they can come back in.

"The problem with that every part of that has a cost.

"I had two full time members of staff, pre-pandemic, who led on pupils wellbeing, now I have four. I had two members of staff who led on interventions with pupils' behaviours to allow them to be successful in school, now I have nine.

"We have significantly more need.


"None of that need is statutory which is what is frightening because that need isn't going away."

One is six pupils are persistently not attending secondary school in Wales. 

Eithne Hughes, Association of School and College Leaders, said: "It is more than signficiant, it is a national crisis to be honest. It is beyond significant that we have got three times the absence rate that we had before the pandemic and that the greatest number of non-attendees are children who are eligible for free school meals and year 11, our oldest kids, who need to be in school in order so their potential can be realised."

A spokesperson from Denbighshire County Council said: “The local authority is aware of the challenges that schools face as they continue to recover from the effects of the pandemic. In Denbighshire, schools and the local authority work in unison to embed a whole school approach to help support the emotional and mental well-being of students and implement a host of strategies for this purpose and to improve attendance.     

"The council recognises that schools cannot meet all of the needs of a complex population of children and young people, and therefore work closely with regional bodies, the NHS and other third sector organisations to provide and signpost relevant support. At a time when budgets are tight, the use of budgets, Welsh Government grant funding and external funds are all used effectively to offer the support required.”