Schools play an essential part in promoting positive social and emotional wellbeing for all their pupils. In Cumbria we are implementing a 'whole system model' to ensure that all children and young people can access the support they need to achieve emotional well-being and mental health. The role of schools in Cumbria is significant and central to this approach.
Increasingly schools are broadening their role by helping to tackle the mental health problems of pupils experiencing difficulties of a more serious nature. Guidance and advice for schools in relation to both the promotion and support areas of their practice has been rapidly growing in recent years, alongside extensive research undertaken in both fields of education and health care.
Below is a summary of recent guidance and advice for schools with links to useful resources and information.
If you have comments or questions about any of the content or references on these pages please contact Anne Sheppard at email@example.com
If you would like to know more about Cumbria's Big Lottery Funded 'HeadStart' Programme to support and build the emotional resilience of 10 to 14 year olds please contact Lindsey Ormesher at firstname.lastname@example.org, you can also visit the Cumbria Headstart site.
This non-statutory advice clarifies the responsibility of the school, outlines what they can do and how to support a child or young person whose behaviour (whether disruptive, withdrawn, anxious, depressed or otherwise may be related to an unmet mental health need).
• In order to help their pupils succeed, schools have a role to play in supporting them to be resilient and mentally healthy. There are a variety of things that schools can do, for all their pupils and for those with particular problems, to offer that support in an effective way.
• Where severe problems occur schools should expect the child to get support elsewhere as well, including from medical professionals working in Specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), voluntary organisations and local GPs.
• Schools should ensure that pupils and their families participate as fully as possible in decisions and are provided with information and support. The views, wishes and feelings of the pupil and their parents should always be considered.
• Schools can use the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) to help them judge whether individual pupils might be suffering from a diagnosable mental health problem and involve their parents and the pupil in considering why they behave in certain ways.
• There are resources available to help school staff support good mental health and emotional wellbeing. The PSHE Association has produced guidance and lesson plans to support the delivery of effective teaching on mental health issues www.pshe-association.org.uk
• Schools should consider if their pupils would benefit from the offer of school counselling services. The Department for Education has published advice on how to set up and improve schools counselling services.
• There are things that schools can do - including for all their pupils, for those showing early signs of problems and for families exposed to several risk factors - to intervene early and strengthen resilience, before serious mental health problems occur.
This very practical framework written by Professor Katherine Weare draws on extensive research, setting out a series of principles, designed to support school leaders and their staff to deliver well designed and implemented interventions and approaches, drawing on the latest evidence. It reinforces the need for schools to adopt whole-school thinking and a whole school approach to ensure that all parts of the school organisation work coherently together, promote staff well-being and particularly address staff stress levels.
Building on what many schools and colleges are already doing, the document sets out the key actions that head teachers and college principals can take to ensure a whole school/college approach to protecting and promoting pupil and student emotional health and wellbeing.
The rationale reminds us that in an average class of 30, 15 year-old pupils:
• three could have a mental disorder
• ten are likely to have witnessed their parents separate
• one could have experienced the death of a parent
• seven are likely to have been bullied
• six may be self-harming
The report sets out and goes on to deal in detail with 8 principles:
1. Leadership and Management that supports and champions efforts to promote emotional health and wellbeing
2. Curriculum, teaching and learning
3. Enabling student voice to influence decisions
4. Staff development to support their own wellbeing and that of students
5. Identifying need and monitoring the impact of interventions
6. Working with parents and carers
7. Targeted support and appropriate referral
8. An ethos and environment that promotes respect and values diversity
"Social, emotional and mental health" is listed as one of the "four broad areas of need." (para 5.32)
Paragraph 6.32 goes into a bit more detail; "Children and young people may experience a wide range of social and emotional difficulties which manifest themselves in many ways. Theses may include becoming withdrawn or isolated, as well as displaying challenging, disruptive or disturbing behaviour. These behaviours may reflect underlying mental health difficulties such as anxiety or depression, self-harming, substance misuse, eating disorders or physical symptoms that are medically unexplained. Other children and young people may have disorders such as attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactive disorder or attachment disorder."
There are many resources available to schools. It can be time consuming trying to assess which may be helpful to your school. Four have been selected for inclusion here:
In 2014 the Cumbria South Lakes Federation of Schools produced a resource pack for schools on Emotional Resilience
This report and the included resources arose out of a research project which aimed to embed good practice in enhancing the emotional wellbeing of all students. There are three main themes; research, communication and the trialling of interventions with young people aged 11-18yrs attending South Lakes Federation Schools. The lessons learnt, key recommendations and the many detailed resources for schools staff to use with individuals and groups make this toolkit, well worth a visit for all schools whether they are thinking about their own emotional resilience policy or wanting to deliver some practical approaches to supporting emotional wellbeing and health.
Nationally, schools are recognising the need to support the continued learning and professional development of their staff in the areas of emotional wellbeing and mental health.
Raising staff awareness about mental health problems and the role of the school, whilst developing an understanding of child and adolescent development in relation to emotional and mental health and the risk-factors to wellbeing, are now an important area for schools development and performance.
MindEd is funded by the Department of Health and is a free educational resource for everyone. The Core Curriculum contains several modules relevant to schools staff, e.g. 'Delivering care and support to CYP in different contexts.' , 'Understanding and explaining specialised therapies.'
The site provides information and advice for staff on children and young people's mental health and can sign posts to targeted resources when mental health problems have been identified. www.MindEd.org.uk
The Eurogenas project aims at contributing to the prevention of suicidal thoughts and behaviours in Europe. There are 15 European partners involved in the project, of which Cumbria County Council is one. The project has produced several toolkits and this one provides guidelines for school based suicide prevention, intervention and postvention, including practical tools and strategies such as guidelines on how to identify and deal with suicidal students and also for a classroom conversation after a suicide or suicide attempt of a student or staff member.
The concluding 8 point checklist will be of help to schools in assessing how well equipped and prepared they are to address this difficult area.
This toolkit was developed after considerable work with schools across Cumbria and whilst out of date in terms of websites and references contains useful information on staff wellbeing, assessment, use of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire and SEAL resources.
The Cumbria Partnership Foundation NHS Trust 'Life is a Rollercoaster' website was developed with and for young people aged 11 to 16 years and includes topics such as sexual health, bullying, drugs and alcohol and physical health issues.