THE deputy first minister John Swinney visited Abercromby Primary School last week to learn about their approach to improving pupils' mental and emotional wellbeing.

John Swinney, who is also the cabinet secretary for education, heard about the range of child-centred health and wellbeing interventions in Clackmannanshire's Scottish Attainment Challenge programme.

He toured the Tullibody school on Thursday, August 31, and was shown around by a group of eager P7s, before viewing art made by the kids and watching the P1s learn the Gruffalo song.

Children, parents and staff also shared their positive partnership working with The Spark, which provides relationship and counselling support for pupils in some Wee County schools.

Mr Swinney said: "Our children's health and emotional wellbeing is one of the most important considerations that we must take as parents, carers and teachers.

"Counselling can play a key role in improving pupil health and wellbeing and can have a direct positive impact on attainment. We know that if a child's emotional and mental wellbeing are negatively impacted by difficult experiences, then learning is fundamentally and significantly impaired.

He added: "I was delighted to visit Abercromby Primary School in Clackmannanshire and see first-hand the positive impact and effect that The Spark counselling service is having on young people at the school. This service is providing a safe space to identified children, giving them an opportunity to explore their feelings and emotions.

"With the financial support of the Scottish Government's Pupil Equity Funding – spent at the discretion of Headteachers - this service is carried out effectively through collaborative working between the school and the local authority.

"It is done with the firm understanding that a child's ability to learn in the classroom does not exist in isolation of the wider circumstances that they may be coping with at home and in their community. It is essential that all children are given appropriate support to achieve their potential."

Cllr Graham Lindsay, the council's education spokesperson, also showed his backing for the work being doing to improve the wellbeing of children in Clacks.

He said: "Social and emotional wellbeing creates the foundations for healthy behaviours and educational attainment.

"The targeted and universal activities showcased here at Abercromby and provided within the Clackmannanshire Attainment Challenge, highlight the importance we place on child-centred, multi-agency approaches to improve wellbeing and close the poverty related attainment gap."

Stella Gibson, chief executive of The Spark, added: "Our partnership with Clackmannanshire Council has enabled us to evaluate our school counselling service, demonstrating the hugely positive impact it is having on pupils' emotional health and well-being.

"Teachers have said the counselling The Spark delivers in schools improves the children's concentration, behaviour, coping skills and motivation. Parents echo these sentiments and find their children more settled, both at school and at home.

"We are delighted the Scottish Government's Pupil Equity Funding is supporting children's emotional health and well-being. We are thrilled to meet with Mr Swinney to show him the benefits of The Spark's services first hand."