The know zone
- On your marks...
A race around the park provides Dennis Richards with some gentle exercise and a golden opportunity to catch up on the latest thinking on pupil attainment… More
- Halfway there
Last December, the government finally released the second stage of the consultation on the national funding formula (NFF). So was it worth the wait? Julia Harnden says more funding must be invested in education for the formula to be a success. More
- Minds matter
Every week there is a new report or story in the media about the worsening mental health and wellbeing of children and young people. Here, Anna Cole highlights how leaders can develop a whole-school approach to deal with mental health and wellbeing. More
- Mental health and wellbeing
The government wants to offer schools in England mental health first-aid training and is looking at how to strengthen links between schools and the NHS. Have you seen a rise in mental health issues in young people in your school or college? Have you had any experience of accessing local specialist NHS services to help pupils? Here ASCL members share their views. More
- Real-world opportunities to inspire students
Focus on… Youth Grand Challenges More
- Adding value
Embracing new ways to communicate More
- Stay in control
Julie McCulloch highlights new guidance for schools considering joining or forming a multi-academy trust (MAT) and explains how you can stay in control of your school’s destiny. More
- Leaders’ surgery
Hotline advice expressed here, and in calls to us, is made in good faith to our members. Schools and colleges should always take formal HR or legal advice from their indemnified provider before acting. More
The government wants to offer schools in England mental health first-aid training and is looking at how to strengthen links between schools and the NHS. Have you seen a rise in mental health issues in young people in your school or college? Have you had any experience of accessing local specialist NHS services to help pupils? Here ASCL members share their views.
Mental health and wellbeing
Numbers are rising
Our experience is that there is a rise in mental health issues – certainly our referrals of students to counselling services, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and interaction with other agencies has increased significantly and across all age groups (we are an 11–18 school).
More than two years ago, we started to work with our local NHS Trust to develop a model for ‘education-health’ partnership working and delivery. Like other schools, we found that parents were expecting our staff to have answers beyond their professional remit to mental health issues – partially because we are the ‘professionals’ with whom parents have daily contact. There was a real willingness to make this partnership happen on both sides, and we began working on a strategy that was designed to:
- ensure that school staff were competent to an ‘appropriate’ level in their responses to students presenting with mental health issues (processes, referral and interventions)
- create an effective, transparent referral system to access mental health services, and design processes that would ensure effective relationships with schools
- provide information in a variety of formats for parents and young people on mental health issues
Unfortunately, the plans ground to a halt when resources within the trust were redeployed. As a school, we applied for start-up grants/ funded projects to continue the work, but we were unsuccessful. Because there was no capacity within the trust, we could not continue what had begun as a promising strategy. Two years on, we’re no further forward and face the same frustrations we did two years ago, but with rising numbers of students needing support in this area. (Name and details supplied)
In our school, we adopt a three-pronged strategy to addressing mental health concerns: de-stigmatisation, building resilience and effective and informed support.
One of the ways we do this is through a group called Open Minds run by a lead member of our pastoral and safeguarding team. This is a support group for students and staff affected by mental health issues.
Open Minds meets once a week for lunch, and has students from Year 7 to sixth form in its membership. At times, it is a conventional support group, in that we speak about members’ concerns and offer them support and advice. At other times, we learn about the latest research and strategies to ensure positive mental health, from cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to resilience training. We host guest speakers, such as psychiatrists and social workers, and have sessions where staff come and open up about their experiences to students. The ground rules and sense of mutual respect are agreed and respected.
Open Minds is a safe, inclusive, confidential mini-community in which students know that they do not need to be embarrassed for themselves or their families. It is openly advertised and new members are welcome without interrogation. The idea was to overcome taboo and stigmatisation – it now is also building resilience and tolerance.
Head of Lower School
The St Marylebone CofE School in London
Social media link
There is no doubt that the last couple of years have seen a seismic shift in the hopes that parents (and teachers) have for their children. They used to seek academic glory for them but, now, that comes second to mental stability and wellbeing.
The spike in mental health challenges is not coincidentally linked to the progression of social media that has separated the generations in an unprecedented way. When children are in possession of a mobile phone, their ability to question, to think and, crucially, to make the right decision is severely hampered. They feel a pressure that far exceeds any peer pressure one may feel in person because the widespread publicity of their every move, post or photo is quite staggering. Their communication skills are deteriorating as quickly as their innate self-confidence, which is eroded with every comparison they make to some unattainable ‘role model’.
At our school, we are teaming up with parents to work together as one Digital Parent Staff Association, to capitalise on the, also unprecedented, unanimity in teacher/parental opinion about the link between social media use and the mental health challenges of our children today.
Deputy Head: Pastoral Care, Pupil Progress and Wellbeing
Immanuel College in Hertfordshire