Supporting student wellbeing: Rajni Patel

Supporting student wellbeing: Rajni Patel

Supporting student wellbeing: Rajni Patel

Introduction

The number of children needing mental health support is rising year upon year. In England in 2019-2020, referrals increased by 35% on the previous year, whilst treatments only increased by 4%.

"My Fellowship galvanised my thinking about developing a holistic approach to craft education." - Rajni Patel, Fellow

Creative learning director Rajni Patel (CF 2017) is working to provide alternative ways to improve schoolchildren’s mental health, through launching a new project that enables children to learn traditional crafts outdoors. Rajni set up Old Skills New Ways in 2018, with funding from Arts Council England. Initially he worked with two primary schools in Devon to provide week-long woodcraft camps in local woods during the school year. The results were hugely successful, as local headteacher Hilary Priest noted: “We have seen first-hand the incredibly positive impact that Old Skills New Ways has had on young people, in terms of improving their confidence, mental health, self-esteem and how they view themselves as learners.”

Rajni has since partnered with two secondary schools also in Devon to encourage greater participation in the programme, as well as launching a new exhibition all about the project at the Devon Guild of Craftsmen, showing what the children learnt. During lockdown, Rajni had to move this work online. He launched a new website featuring videos, podcasts, blogs and webinars to encourage schools and families to continue connecting with nature and craft activities in new ways.

He is currently developing the Old Skills New Ways programme to work in cities in the South-West with children from minoritised racial groups, those with special educational needs or disability, and care-experienced children.

As a parent, artist and nature enthusiast, Rajni was inspired to explore different ways to engage young people in traditional crafts. His Fellowship to India and Japan explored the interplay between traditional and contemporary craft-making practices.

Rajni says, “I care about every child having the right to explore their creativity and to develop their connection with nature. My Fellowship galvanised my thinking about developing a holistic approach to craft education unifying practical skills, nature connection and wellbeing into seasonal learning programmes for schools.”

"My Fellowship galvanised my thinking about developing a holistic approach to craft education." - Rajni Patel, Fellow

Creative learning director Rajni Patel (CF 2017) is working to provide alternative ways to improve schoolchildren’s mental health, through launching a new project that enables children to learn traditional crafts outdoors. Rajni set up Old Skills New Ways in 2018, with funding from Arts Council England. Initially he worked with two primary schools in Devon to provide week-long woodcraft camps in local woods during the school year. The results were hugely successful, as local headteacher Hilary Priest noted: “We have seen first-hand the incredibly positive impact that Old Skills New Ways has had on young people, in terms of improving their confidence, mental health, self-esteem and how they view themselves as learners.”

Rajni has since partnered with two secondary schools also in Devon to encourage greater participation in the programme, as well as launching a new exhibition all about the project at the Devon Guild of Craftsmen, showing what the children learnt. During lockdown, Rajni had to move this work online. He launched a new website featuring videos, podcasts, blogs and webinars to encourage schools and families to continue connecting with nature and craft activities in new ways.

He is currently developing the Old Skills New Ways programme to work in cities in the South-West with children from minoritised racial groups, those with special educational needs or disability, and care-experienced children.

As a parent, artist and nature enthusiast, Rajni was inspired to explore different ways to engage young people in traditional crafts. His Fellowship to India and Japan explored the interplay between traditional and contemporary craft-making practices.

Rajni says, “I care about every child having the right to explore their creativity and to develop their connection with nature. My Fellowship galvanised my thinking about developing a holistic approach to craft education unifying practical skills, nature connection and wellbeing into seasonal learning programmes for schools.”