This informal CPD article Designing a whole-school wellbeing programme was provided by E-ACT, one of the country's largest multi-academy trusts. A whole-school approach to mental health involves all parts of a school working together, from senior leaders, teachers and all school staff, to parents, carers and the wider community. By taking this approach, mental health is ‘everyone’s business’.
For many years now, E-ACT has taken a whole-trust approach to wellbeing. Today, poor mental health continues to increase at an alarming rate, but for some of our pupils, who live in some of the most disadvantaged parts of the country, their difficulties are often heightened.
The mental health issues that present among some of our pupils are wide and challenging, but no matter their background, we want them to flourish in whatever they choose to do in their lives. It may sound obvious, but if you’re happy, you’re going to do better and work harder – whether that’s in a lesson or in your place of work.
Designing a whole-school wellbeing programme
At the heart of our approach to mental health is ASK. We ASK each other if we’re okay and we encourage everyone to ASK for help when they need it. Our ASK framework stands for:
- Awareness, which involves educating pupils, staff and communities about mental health difficulties
- Support, which is about providing a range of support to all our people. For example, E-ACT has now trained over 1400 youth and adult mental health first aiders to recognise the early warning signs of mental health problems
- Kindness, which means being kind to ourselves and to each other and actively promoting wellbeing
We have learned a great deal over the years about what works for our pupils and staff and the potential challenges. Here are three things we recommend you consider when planning your approach:
1. It’s all about engagement
For example, we know that mental health issues vary according to age, location and levels of deprivation, so we tailored our mental health curriculum by talking to our pupils and asking them what they want to know.
2. It’s important to know your community and adapt
One of our academies is in the 16th most deprived wards in the country, and perhaps unsurprisingly, trauma presents highly among some of their children. By becoming a ‘trauma informed school’, they are in a strong position to support their most vulnerable children.
3. Try to embed only one strategy at a time
Many strategies fail because there are too many strands being implemented at once, so we need to focus on our priorities and allow those to become normal before moving on.
Whether we like it or not, there is still stigma attached to talking about mental health. Some staff may think, ‘is this really our job?’, so we need to reassure them that it’s not about being a counsellor, it’s simply knowing the basics and having enough knowledge to be able to spot the early warning signs.
We hope this article was helpful. For more information from E-ACT, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.