In a blog written for Children's Mental Health Week, primary school headteacher Enid Lewis shares four initiatives that have helped to support the mental health and wellbeing of staff and pupils in her school.
I have always felt that mental health is not talked about enough in schools because there is often a stigma around the topic. Since becoming a headteacher, I have tried to challenge this because children and young people’s social and emotional wellbeing can have such a significant impact on their learning.
We introduced Place2Be services into our school in 2015. Having Place2Be in the school has given our pupils a level of self-awareness that means they can recognise when they’re struggling, feeling worried or anxious, and need support. This is a priceless skill to have, and will hopefully allow our pupils to look after themselves long term and take this self-awareness with them into adult life.
Here are four initiatives that that we’ve introduced to help improve the mental health and wellbeing of pupils and staff in our school:
Having a healthy mind is just as important as having a healthy body. We’ve extended the school hours so that our school day begins at 7:30am and ends at 6pm. This gives parents and children the opportunity to come in, eat a healthy breakfast and talk to teachers before and after school hours.
Some parents were reluctant at first about introducing Place2Be services into the school - mental health can be a scary word, and naturally some parents worried about what their children would say. Five years on and parents are huge advocates for the service because they’ve seen first-hand the benefits of having a space to talk.
Place2Be is now woven into the fabric of our school. We have 18 pupils who have regular one-to-one counselling with Place2Be, and many more pupils make use of the self-referral service, Place2Talk, where pupils can have a fifteen-minute chat during break or lunch to talk about anything that could be worrying them.
Initially our teachers and staff had concerns about the impact that taking pupils out of lessons to use Place2Be services could have on their learning. But by giving pupils the time to learn about how to manage their feelings and emotions, staff have found that this has actually created a much healthier learning environment, and children have a better attitude towards learning.
We provide a safe space for teachers to talk about their concerns or any issues they may have spotted in the classroom through the Place2Think service. We also provide attachment and trauma training so staff are as prepared as they can be to support pupils. This training has shown that if you as a teacher can understand what is causing a child to be disruptive, it is not just that child and their family who benefit, but all the children in the school.