A WEE COUNTY primary school has been gifted a “buddy bench” for Christmas to help alleviate pupils' stress.

Alva PS received the bench from the Thistles shopping centre in Stirling provide a place for pupils who need someone to talk to, or who need a break from the stresses of everyday life, with a welcoming place to sit.

The bench, with a bright and colourful design, has taken up residence in the school's sensory garden this month, and will be utilised by children of all ages during break times and outdoor play sessions.

Victoria Hamilton, deputy headteacher at Alva PS, said: “We were absolutely delighted when Thistles reached out to gift the school a buddy bench.

“The bench sits perfectly within the sensory garden we are creating, where children can go during busy lunch and break times, if they need a bit of space.

“We are also working hard on our outdoor learning curriculum and all classes are spending much more time in the outdoor space around our school playground, so the bench will be well used throughout the day.”

The dedicated buddy bench was created by young people at the shopping centre's kids' club, the Wolf Pack.

Children between the ages of three and 10 from across the Forth Valley worked hard over recent months to create the design, aiming to cheer up those in need and to put a smile on the faces of everyone who see it.

Gary Turnbull, centre director at the Thistles, said: “Over the last few months our Wolf Pack kids club participants have been excited to create a buddy bench for children in need in the local area.

“They’ve spent a lot of time painting and considering how the bench could be used, leading to us choosing to gift it to a local primary school.”

The initiative was part of the centre’s #ThistlesHelps campaign, which has been seeking to support communities over the past year.

The wider campaign has seen the centre offering free retail space for an independent business from the area and giving back to charity through partnerships with Strathcarron Hospice and Reanimate.

Mr Turnbull added: “When we began conversations with Alva primary, we realised very quickly how well the school aligns with our values of inclusivity and, after hearing about the sensory garden, decided it would be the perfect place for our bench to live.

“We hope this will prove to be a safe space for pupils in need and would like to say a big thank you to everyone involved in our Wolf Pack for their hard work and creativity this past year.”