This informal CPD article Implementing a mental health strategy at Nechells E-ACT Academy was provided by E-ACT, one of the country's largest multi-academy trusts. Nechells in Birmingham is the 16th most deprived ward in the UK. Despite the area being wonderfully multicultural, sadly more than half of children grow up in poverty there and sadly crime and health issues mean that life expectancy is among the worst in the city. For that reason, at Nechells E-ACT Academy the mental health of pupils and staff is a central part of all our conversations.
Implementing a mental health strategy at Nechells E-ACT Academy
The last 18 months have taught us how incredibly resilient our pupils are, with everyone having to adapt to new ways of learning. However, we also know that the pandemic has disproportionally affected children from poorer backgrounds. Nechells was badly hit, so many of the academy pupils returned after lockdown with high levels of anxiety. Since lockdown, the academy has also supported many parents suffering from depression, anxiety and threat of suicide.
With the highest aspirations for pupils, Nechells E-ACT Academy’s first priority is their mental health. The approach taken included:
- Looking at the needs of the local community allowed academy staff to identify gaps and develop a clear understanding of what the focus needs to be. For example, trauma presents highly among pupils, so by taking the decision to become a ‘trauma informed school’, they were able to support the most vulnerable children. Many pupils also have gaps in their emotional literacy, so catch-up funding was used to train a member of staff as an emotional literacy support assistant.
- The academy ensured that the curriculum met the needs of pupils. Staff worked with them to produce a specific mental health curriculum, so they could develop their understanding of mental health every day.
- Most importantly, staff ensured that mental health is now part of the very fabric of the academy. It is part of all conversations including at leadership team meetings, assemblies and staff CPD.
Since 2018, Nechells E-ACT Academy has also played a crucial role in supporting the local community through an onsite advice and support hub. This dedicated hub brings together local charities and support groups so that they’re easily accessible under one roof. From economic and vocational support to health and wellbeing and safety, the hub plays a crucial role in helping the local community to thrive.
Mental health and wellbeing threads through everything at Nechells E-ACT Academy, and via their community wellbeing groups, the academy supports residents to promote positive mental health. Alongside this, the academy hosts a drop-in crisis café run by a local mental health charity for people feeling emotionally distressed or experiencing a mental health crisis.
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