Independent School Parent
An immersive learning programme and timetabled wellbeing practices ensured success for the thriving Bedfordshire school in this category
At the virtual awards ceremony on 7 October, this small pre-prep and nursery was commended speci cally for its outstanding commitment to pupil wellbeing and for its innovative immersive learning programme.
Polam is a small independent preprep and nursery for children aged 12 months to seven years, which provides a home-from-home learning environment with a distinct focus on pastoral care, mental health and wellbeing.
In September 2020, the school embarked on an immersive learning programme, transforming ordinary classrooms into themed, interactive learning spaces. Polam currently has two completed rooms – Discovery, a space-themed IT suite and Amazonia, a plant- lled rainforest room.
Dressing classrooms with themed resources encourages the students to be absorbed and engaged, making their learning more purposeful – and lots more fun! Having a unique, multipurpose space like the Rainforest Room is a perfect environment to support wellbeing, providing the opportunity for meditation and mindfulness, imaginative storytelling and social activities, as well as speci c learning from the curriculum.
Headteacher Darren O’Neil said “I couldn’t be more proud of Polam winning this award. To get this level of national recognition for such a small school is a real testament to the great teamwork and the vision of the sta . As a pre-prep with its own feeder nursery and pre-school, our sta really are experts in those all-important Early Years and it feels amazing to have this recognised nationally. On a personal level, to be the head of an awardwinning school a er just one year as headteacher is a real career high for me. I’m not quite sure how I’ll top it!”
As part of the Cognita Schools group, Polam regularly takes part in Cognita’s annual Global Be Well Day. From this, Polam developed its own Week To Be Well, which then blossomed into dedicated wellbeing activities becoming part of the weekly timetable. Polam has also become the only school in Bedfordshire to incorporate resilience programme RISE! into their weekly timetable too. And with a Wellbeing Champion in school, as well as a Mental Health First Aider, this is testament to Polam’s commitment to wellbeing all year round, reinforcing the importance of wellbeing as the foundation that needs to underpin every aspect of nursery and pre-prep education.
“Being a winner is a remarkable
“BEING A WINNER IS A REMARKABLE FEELING, BUT we won’t be resting on our laurels for long! WE WANT TO CONTINUE TO BE AT THE FOREFRONT OF NEW INITIATIVES”
feeling, but we won’t be resting on our laurels for long!” says Darren O’Neil “We want to continue to be at the forefront of new initiatives, and constantly re ne and improve our expert status in Early Years education. But we do hope that this win will put Polam on the map in Bedford as a top school choice. And there couldn’t be a better time to join the Polam community, with our 100-year celebrations coming up in the next academic year!” polamschool.co.uk