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Inverness primary school creates ‘remembrance and mindfulness’ garden for military and bereaved children in need of peace and quiet reflection

By Alasdair Fraser

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Drakies Garden with Chloe Middleton and Joe Owens and their P7 classmates using the garden.
Drakies Garden with Chloe Middleton and Joe Owens and their P7 classmates using the garden.

An Inverness school has created an oasis of playground calm for pupils in need of peace and quiet reflection.

Drakies Primary’s Remembrance and Mindfulness Garden, created with the support of local businesses, is being seen as all the more important given the number of military families it provides education for.

The school has transformed a previously unloved area of grounds into an attractive and peaceful space where pupils can go for some ‘chill and still’ time if they are feeling sad, distressed or in need of breathing space to reflect.

The school has a growing population of military families, as well as several children who have suffered bereavements or are worried about family members.

Head teacher Scott Callander noticed some of those children seeking out quiet spaces at break or lunchtime and resolved to create a space they could use.

Mr Callander explained: “We are aware of families who have experienced significant loss at Drakies and it is important for us to provide a space for children to be supported when they are feeling overwhelmed or upset.

“It is hoped that a calm and reflective space will provide opportunities for them to remember their loved ones and to talk about their memories.

“At Drakies we are passionate about providing an exciting, engaging, and inspirational curriculum that ensures our children leave us with skills for learning, work and life.

Drakies' pupils at the opening of the new garden.
Drakies' pupils at the opening of the new garden.

“For this to be possible, we strongly believe it is essential for our school to be a welcoming and nurturing environment which supports children and their families through challenges that they may face.”

The new garden has, as centrepiece, a young oak tree donated by The British Legion.

It also features spring bulbs, plants and shrubs donated by Simpsons Garden Centre and will, in time, be surrounded by a woodland hedgerow, with saplings donated by The Woodland Trust.

The project was also made possible by a donation from Jennifer’s Fund, managed by the directors of The Cairngorm Group.

Jennifer, a mother of three school-aged children, died from cancer in July 2021.

Chris Dowling, Jennifer’s brother and an administrator of Jennifer’s Fund, said: “As a family we know first-hand the impact on young children of losing a parent, and of how important it is for them to be able to take time out to come to terms with what they are feeling.

“We are really proud to have played a small part in this brilliant initiative.

“We firmly believe that with the support offered by the school, the Remembrance and Mindfulness Garden at Drakies will help children who find themselves in the same position as Jennifer’s, to find a space to reflect, as and when they need to, during the school day.”

The garden area includes decorated benches and chip bark and a banner designed by older pupils.

Every November, it will display silhouettes of a servicewoman and serviceman.

It is also equipped with books, games, crayons and drawing materials, cushions and blankets, to create a quiet and cosy environment. A weatherproof shed is also planned.

One parent of a bereaved child at the school said: “This has already made a huge difference to my child.

“The school was already brilliant at tackling mental health issues, but this garden has helped my child to really open up and not be scared to tell the truth about our situation.

“At nine years old, my child is already being asked by teachers to look after other children in a similar situation. That is really helping them to grow in confidence.”

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