The PATHS programme uses a variety of tools including puppets, manuals and activities to help pupils think before acting when upset or confronted with a conflict situation and lessons focus on teaching identification of problem situations through recognition of “upset” feelings. The pioneering health and wellbeing education programme begain in 1981 and was exclusively for deaf children, using sign language and speech. By 1986 it was being used in inner-city areas, having being tested in Seattle. Since then it has been translated in 10 languages and is used in an estimated 5,000 schools in 20 countries. A pilot programme involving 13 schools in Renfrewshire has taken place with a further 14 schools in the area set to join the scheme run in conjunction with children’s charity Barnardo’s Scotland.
Dr Mark Greenberg, the original author and developer of the PATHS curriculum from Penn State College, said seeing children with mental health issues had led him to act.
He said: “Social and emotional learning is really the bedrock of human development. We can think about it as an underlying master skill. I became engaged in this back in 1980 because I saw many children that had serious mental health problems and I believe that most of these problems are preventable.
“If we create the right kinds of caring, loving environments for children and we teach them skills when they’re young we can avoid many of the problems we see in our culture - both the violence we see and aggression that predominates much of our culture but also the fact that many children have hidden problems of depression and anxiety, especially as they become teenagers.”
Visitors from across the world visited two of the ‘model’ primary schools Williamsburgh and St Anthony’s in Renfrewshire earlier this month.