A SCHOOL that allows pent-up pupils to unwind next to an aquarium or beneath a weighted blanket has been hailed for its nurturing approach.

Aureus School in Didcot is among just six secondary schools in the country to be awarded gold status of the Carnegie Centre of Excellence Mental Health Award for Schools.

The awards celebrate schools that work to 'strengthen the mental health of the next generation' and Aureus, which opened in 2017, is said to be the first in Oxfordshire to boast the gold standard.

The secondary school's executive headteacher Hannah Wilson said: "We are absolutely delighted.

"It is a rare honour and reflects the importance everyone at Aureus School places on promoting and protecting the mental wealth of everyone within the school community."

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The academy upholds the motto 'nurturing hearts and mind' and recently opened a dedicated 'safe space' called the nurture room, for stressed students to take time out in.

If staff agree further intervention is necessary, pupils can also use the school's sensory room to watch an aquarium or sit under a weighted blanket.

Mrs Wilson said: "Our nurture room allows students to self-refer and is just one of many tools we utilise to ensure they have the very best on offer, in terms of support across all areas of their education."

The school's deputy headteacher Julie Hunter is trained in mental health first aid, mindfulness and the science of happiness.

At a school leaders' conference last month, Ms Hunter apparently said students who feel they might misbehave are allocated a 'nurture card' that allows them to self-refer to the Nurture Room.

According to a Schools Week report of the talk, she said: "Maybe by giving them that time...might be more useful than being sat in a punishment room.

"Some teachers would say that’s a loss of academic learning. And I would say, a brain in pain cannot access learning, and actually, a student needs to be ready to learn."

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The school, which is run by the GLF Trust, offers pupils half an hour of mindful art, reading, science or movement each morning before lessons.

It is also home to the Didcot Art Room, a branch of a national charity that promotes art therapy in schools.

Schools have to purchase a framework for the Carnegie award, costing £420, and use this to self-evaluate their mental health approach.

Once evidence is submitted for the self-evaluation, Carnegie's experts will judge the standard to be bronze, silver or gold.

Awards last for three years and claim to help schools build an 'emotionally healthier environment'.