Children's mental health

Positive Transitions: A partnership with Greenhouse Sports

We’re working with Greenhouse Sports coaches to make schools as supportive and nurturing for children as possible

Key information:

  • Partners: Greenhouse Sports, Oval Learning Cluster and five of their member schools: Ashmole Primary School, Wyvil Primary School, Herbert Morrison Primary School, Vauxhall Primary School, and Lilian Baylis Technology School. Supported by ImpactEd, University College London, and Place2Be 
  • Amount: £502,091 (contribution towards total £1,109,160 budget) 
  • Duration: Four academic years, Sep 2021 – Aug 2026 
  • Programme: Children’s mental health 

What we are doing together

Greenhouse Sports embeds sports coaches into schools, offering mentoring and support to vulnerable children and those facing inequalities. This project has a particular focus on the difficult transition from primary to secondary school. We are working with them to expand the number of schools and young people they reach in Lambeth. Three coaches will work with around 300 children between Years 5 and 9, based full time in one secondary and four primary schools.  

Coaches provide 121 support, group mentoring, lunch and after school clubs, support for school PE sessions and specialist sports coaching to children most at risk of developing or worsening ‘behavioural difficulties’. Coaches understand that the way a child behaves and interacts with others at school is often an expression of how they feel or what they are dealing with in their lives. Many schools lack the capacity or expertise to support children when distress or trauma is communicated through behaviour. 

Greenhouse Sports helps connect schools, community groups, and families during periods of transition, which can be especially challenging for young people living with the impact of poverty. The model prioritises respecting and nurturing children and has been shown to boost confidence, engagement with other school activities, academic performance, and wider school culture.  

All coaches are successful sports professionals who went to similar schools to the ones they are working with, and who have experience of the sorts of issues young people in Lambeth are facing every day. They will provide extra support for children with mental health issues that cannot be addressed in classrooms and are not being supported by CAMHS.  

The project is an opportunity to develop and test a potentially replicable model to help schools create safe and nurturing spaces for every child.

The Greenhouse Sports Coaching model has been transformative in our school and our coach is a full member of our school community. So far, we have really been excited by the opportunities the programme brings in helping students to build positive relationships with each other, their coach and other school staff members. As the project develops, we look forward to seeing the further impact this will have on our year 7 cohorts, who will join us already having these established connections, easing their transition and safeguarding them against many adolescent mental health issues that we are seeing far too often in our young people.

Karen Chamberlain
Karen Chamberlain Headteacher at Lilian Baylis Technology School

Aims of partnership

  • Test the use of sports coaching and mentoring as a tool for schools to support children to have more positive mental health. The coaches will focus particularly on children in distress, who are communicating that through their behaviour and/or interactions with others  
  • To prevent children with ‘behavioural difficulties’ from being isolated or excluded, building a school culture that takes a more holistic and nurturing approach to wellbeing 
  • Build more trusting relationships between schools, families, and community groups to ensure every child gets the support they need. Children coping with poverty and the cost of living crisis will be a particular focus
  • Plug capacity gaps in classrooms, providing more support for school staff and opportunities to work with and learn from coaches
  • Work with ImpactEd, Place2Be, and UCL to measure the impact and effectiveness of this approach
  • Share learnings with other schools who may be able to replicate this model, and with commissioners and funders who may be in a position to better support similar initiatives (both locally and on a larger scale)  

All children deserve strong and positive mental health, and schools play an important role in creating nurturing spaces where every child can thrive. Greenhouse Sports has had a huge impact on the children, schools, and communities they support and we’re delighted to fund and work on this project.  We’re especially excited to be supporting a model that we know schools and families already value. By being there for young people in the years before and after transition to secondary school we have an opportunity to build real school connectedness, strengthen children's support systems and bring additional capacity to schools that are already pushed to the limit.

Julika Niehaus
Julika Niehaus Portfolio Manager

Strategic fit

Research studies and insights shared by families are clear that school transitions can be periods of extreme stress for children, trigger a decrease in mental health[1] and manifest as behaviours that both young people and schools find difficult. 

We also know from working closely with the Oval Learning Cluster that many primary school staff don’t have the capacity or confidence to support every child’s mental health. Teachers describe anticipating which children will find the transition to secondary school most difficult but don’t know how to support the child or their family. 

Sport and sports coaching is one tool schools can use that’s proven to help young people to express themselves and feel seen. Having full time coaches and mentors trained in mental health support, who crucially understand and relate to what the young people are living through, could be a powerful way to make school a place that all children can thrive. 

[1] School Connectedness Buffers the Effects of Negative Family Relations and Poor Effortful Control on Early Adolescent Conduct Problems – Loukas – 2010 – Journal of Research on Adolescence – Wiley Online Library 

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