Group of school children sitting on a bench wearing resilience rucksacks

Resilience Rucksacks

The ‘Resilience Rucksack’ project will see more than 1000 Year 6 and 7 pupils (aged 10-12) in Berkshire and Oxfordshire receive a rucksack filled with items specially designed to build their mental wellbeing and resilience. 

This pioneering project is the culmination of over two years’ work, including a review of the latest scientific evidence, consultations with young people, teachers, parents and mental health experts, and 20 co-production workshops where the unique wellbeing products were developed together with pupils themselves.

Three different coloured resilience rucksacksThe Resilience Rucksack playing cards






Pre-teen children will be provided with a backpack filled with items to build mental wellbeing and resilience, including a comic book, a pop song (which they can listen to via a QR code), playing cards, journal, pedometer and more. These items are all focused on promoting four key themes of wellbeing: healthy sleep, physical activity, self-compassion and friendships.

Professor Stella Chan, Charlie Waller Institute Chair in Evidence-based Psychological Treatments at the University of Reading, who is leading the project, said: “The transition from primary to secondary school can be an incredibly challenging time for young people’s mental health.

“By engaging pupils directly in this innovative and creative way, we hope to provide them with fun and evidenced-based tools to support their resilience throughout their school years, and for life.

“A key focus has been not just looking at the research but truly listening to the lived experience of young people themselves through co-production. The resulting products are rooted in science and are reflective of what pupils have told us could make the biggest difference.”

Resilience Fairs

The Resilience Fairs were launched on 6 March 2024, and have taken place at five schools so far, with three more to go as part of the initial pilot phase. This has included a mix of state and independent schools Reading, Wokingham, Abingdon and Newbury to capture a wide range of demographics.

The Resilience Rucksack stand at a school resilience fairAgnes Tait, Resilience Rucksacks Operations Manager and Fair Coordinator, and Research Assistant at the University of Reading, explained that the fairs will be visited by 1,071 pupils in total. During the fairs the pupils will visit themed booths to learn more about the science behind psychological resilience and choose the types of tools they want to take away and try.

Agnes said: “First, the pupils choose a rucksack at the Welcome Desk with three colours to choose from. Choice and agency are key elements of this whole project. Then we have a series of booths – the Sleep Booth, the Movement Booth, the Friendship Booth, and the Self-Compassion Booth – and at each one a team member gives a short presentation on how the theme impacts resilience and wellbeing, and the science behind these, as well as sharing wellbeing tools with the pupils.

Stress balls at the resilience rucksack fair“Our goal is making this science accessible and engaging and so we have designed specific activities at each booth to demonstrate how the wellbeing tools can be used.

“The project has been very well received. We are thrilled that we have been asked by multiple schools to return and run further fairs in the future, and the pupils all engaged in the sessions and actively asked questions at the different booths. We have also received requests from other schools to run the fairs and have received positive feedback from local councils. We are currently in discussions about how we may scale up the project on a larger local and regional level.”

Here are some quotes shared from teachers after the fairs:

“Wow wow wow! What a couple of days! I just wanted to say an absolutely HUGE thank you to you and the team. It has been absolutely incredible and I have heard so many positive comments from our young people.”

– St Crispin’s Secondary School, Wokingham, Berkshire.

“Many thanks for delivering such an amazing project. The quality, time and effort put into this event will really show the students how much their mental wellbeing is valued and considered.”

– Highdown School & Sixth Form Centre, Reading, Berkshire.

Partnership in action

The £100,000 initiative has been made possible through major fundraising efforts and the support of partners, including the Charlie Waller Trust and the Jasmine Foundation charities for young people’s mental health. A number of private donors have also generously donated towards the scheme.

School children at a  Resilience Rucksack stand at a school resilience fairJanice Galvin, Fundraising Manager at the University of Reading, said: “This project is phenomenal, and it’s amazing that we have been able to fund the whole pilot research project through donations. Thank you to all of our donors – you have made an incredible difference.”

Professor Chan added: “I would like to say a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has supported us through this project, from charity organisations to individual donors, participating schools, steering group members, and young people who have helped shape our project.

“Providing young people with tools that help them cope with the stress around this critical transitional period in life, and helping us all to re-shape our dialogue of mental health in a positive tone, are something that I have been wanting to do since entering the profession twenty years ago.

“This is a dream come true for me and I have my team – endearingly termed the ‘Resilience Superteam’ – and all our supporters to thank for helping us to support young people with their mental wellbeing.”

Find out more about the Resilience Rucksack project.