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Setting Out On a Journey to Change the Mental Health Landscape in Schools

Developing a whole school approach to mental health can be challenging. I remember signing up to speak this topic at the TES Special Needs show in Islington in October 2018 and wondering how it would be received.

On the one hand, a year earlier 100,000 people had signed a petition calling for mental health education to be made compulsory in primary and secondary schools. There were plans for schools to teach children how to build mental resilience and to spot signs of poor mental health in their friends. However, there was also a sense that perhaps this was not the job of schools and that teachers should be focusing on the curriculum.

There was the added pressure that many schools and academies prided themselves on their ‘zero tolerance’ policies when it came to behaviour, school uniform, homework and school rules. Some senior leaders worried that their schools would be seen to be lax, that their reputation would suffer and that some of their best staff and pupils would go elsewhere.

We were urging schools to plan a whole school approach that would require them:

  • To audit their current provision, systems and polices
  • Receive feedback from the school community (governors, all staff, parent/carers and students)
  • Organise mental health training for all staff, not just the teachers
  • Review all policies (especially behaviour and safeguarding) to ensure mental health is embedded, and behaviours are viewed as a form of communication
  • Utilise evidence-based interventions and develop capacity internally. If external organisations/professionals are used, it is important the school become a member of the multi-disciplinary team.
  • Record and measure progress/impact
  • Develop a strategy rather than a fire-fighting approach to create a whole school approach to mental health.

In the beginning we thought about a model where we would put a clinical psychologist into settings to support children and staff. We quickly realised that this was not going to work. We had such a torrent of requests from schools that we was not able to meet the demand.

In addition, schools were not familiar the mental health landscape and specialist provision and had little in the way of budget. Another issue was that every school wanted us to start at once!

We created EduPod as a new way for mental health leads to set in motion a whole school approach to mental health. Schools would be able to purchase professional mental health resources, action plans and pre-generated surveys at an affordable price.

Ellie Watson is a class teacher at Burneston Primary School and has found it a real time-saver: ‘I’ve found EduPod really easy to use and straight forward. After completing the self assessment audit tool and receiving the completed surveys, the dashboard gives a visual, clear overview of areas that we should focus on, which correlates with what we are seeing in our classrooms since children returned in September. ‘

EduPod gives schools access to clinical consultations with a team of Clinical Psychologists and to share concerns and good practice with the online community forum which brings together people working in educational and healthcare settings.

Lyn Roberts, School Business Manager and Mental Health Lead, Castle View Primary and Nursery School has found that this level of support has been beneficial: ‘The role of Mental Health Lead was new to me and felt a bit alien.  EduPod has given my role a sense of direction and structure. Without it I would not have made so much progress this term with ensuring a focus was on mental health in our school. Although it looked like a huge task to begin with, EduPod has helped me to think of it as a little and often tasks. For example, sending out the pre-generated surveys took minutes and we’ve had a fantastic number of responses, which we can use to focus our attention in the near future. EduPod and the clinical support from Zoe has given me confidence to grow and lead in my role.’

In 2019/20 Schools Advisory Service (SAS) invested over £4million on providing wellbeing services to schools across the UK. No other staff absence insurance provider invests as much in wellbeing support as SAS. A part of this comprehensive support is a partnership with Edupod, which provides mental health leads with tools to plan, manage and evaluate their journey to creating happy and mentally healthy environments for the whole school community. SAS clients can access this support by contacting their account manager.

If your school is keen to take the next step in their mental health and wellbeing journey, we can provide the resources and support you will need.

Contact: Deborah Merrick, Relationship Manager,

deborah@innovatingmindscic.com

Guest Wellbeing Blog Submissions are provided by SAS through Ask Andy Pastoral and Wellbeing Support. Click here to learn more about Ask Andy.