The school environment can be extremely stressful for both teacher and pupil, which in turn can lead to poor emotional wellbeing and mental health. In response to this three years ago NCB established the Partnership for Mental Health and Wellbeing in Schools bringing together interested organisations to support, share and inform one another about what matters and what works for schools in supporting children and young people.
The partnership produced ‘what works’ guidance on emotional wellbeing and mental health and made it widely available to all schools.
The key message from the guidance is the importance of a whole school approach. That includes support for students and staff, working across the curriculum and involving pupils, governors and parents. It means provision for developing the wellbeing and resilience of everyone and targeted support for those who have mental health problems by working with health partners. This can only happen with senior leadership commitment, staff development and a supportive culture.
Drawing on the guidance and learning from teachers and school leaders about what they needed, Sue Sterling and I have produced a toolkit, which all primary and secondary schools can download from here>
Our four stage model encourages schools to start by identifying what happens and what matters in their schools that they can build on; and deciding what they want to improve. Working together, including governors and students, developing a common language and identifying what that looks like in practice. Providing staff development and forming relationships with health partners to put universal and targeted provision in place, drawing on research evidence of what works. From the start setting baselines and targets to monitor and evaluate progress and impact, adjust provision to ensure needs are met and ensure staff and pupils feel they have a supportive and enjoyable teaching and learning environment.
Nationally schools are getting excited about the benefits of supporting wellbeing and building resilience for improving students’ achievement and for attracting and retaining staff.
In Plymouth secondary and special schools are working together with Public Health and CAMHS with the local Youth Parliament to take a whole system, whole school approach. Through co-production school and service leaders have devised a new way of working. Preparatory work included school audits and development plans, a young people’s health survey and commissioned counselling support.
The recent city wide development day included a fantastic video of young people talking about their needs, a presentation on what a whole school approach means and a workshop from a clinical psychologist helping teachers think through handling extreme behaviours. Teachers talked about issues including panic attacks, aggressive behaviour linked to domestic violence and self-harm and learnt about strategies for immediate responses and helping students cope better in future. Staff wellbeing commitment includes some schools working towards the Workplace Wellbeing Charter. Plymouth schools know there is lots to do and they are committed, inspiring and innovative.