‘Schools need greater focus on mental health’


A new approach to mental health policy in schools is needed, experts have warned, as they call for major changes in Government policy and new strategy guidelines.

The national Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools (CCEMH), based in Leeds, is the first of its in the country as it looks to lead innovation nationwide. Now, as it calls for a comprehensive programme of development to be rolled out across all schools in the UK, it sets out a series of recommendations for Government. From the introduction of a mental health ‘quality kite-mark’, access to cutting-edge research, and the introduction of a mental health lead for every school, measures must be taken now they say, to ensure children have the resilience to cope in the future.

“We all have mental health and there are simple yet proven steps schools can take to strengthen the resilience of all their students,” said Dean Johnstone, chief executive of Minds Ahead. “These changes are necessary to ensure that mental health difficulties do not limit the success of any child and can only be achieved if a comprehensive programme of school support is in place.”

As well as new standards, the centre argues, the formation of regional networks, professional development and guidance around mental health for everyone working in and with the school, can make a difference.

The CCEMH, a partnership between Leeds Beckett University and social enterprise Minds Ahead, brings together experts in a academia, social research and politics to reform approaches to mental health in schools. The Centre has set out the series of recommendations, backed by Nicky Morgan MP, former Secretary of State for Education.

“Schools and their staff are often the first to spot a pupil is struggling with their mental health so it is vital they know how to support them at an early stage,” she said. “On a more positive note it is essential that all pupils are taught about good mental wellbeing and given the tools to keep themselves well.”

The centre, set up in May this year, has devised a range or training programmes and is now in the process of developing a Masters level qualification in School Mental Health Leadership. Further developments are being made through the use of research grants, forums and online toolkits, and the development of an accreditation for schools.

Professor Damien Page, Dean of the Carnegie School of Education at Leeds Beckett University, said: “The centre exists to strengthen the mental health of the next generation by supporting schools to make a positive change at all levels of the UK’s education system, thereby improving outcomes and life chances. Our work is focused on building this comprehensive programme which is accessible to all schools.”

Jonathan Glazzard, professor of teacher education, said: “We are talking about mental health now in a way we weren’t a few years ago, which is brilliant. This is about raising the profile of mental health so that teachers and school leaders have the skills to identify those in need and can offer the support they need.”

A Government spokesperson said: “We want all children to have good mental health and fulfil their potential. Our recently published survey of mental health provision in schools and colleges shows the importance that is already being placed on good mental health support.”

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