• Viewpoint Educate Magazine Mental Health

Promoting good mental health

Is enough being done to help schools, primary and secondary, provide the best support for children’s mental health and wellbeing? How important for children today is this support, and what further investment or help would you like to see?

Ken Heaton, headteacher, Florence Melly Community Primary School 

There is an increasing number of young children experiencing mental health issues and as a country we should be trying to do everything we can to support all of our children to develop good mental health and wellbeing. Early support is essential for schools. I personally feel the government could do far more to offer funding and support to schools. Our local council is keen to support schools and there are some local grants from our mayor’s office but the council has faced significant cuts to its budget. In Florence Melly Community Primary School, mental health is seen as a very important aspect of our children’s development. We have established strong school values: DREAMS. This stands for determination, resilience, empowerment, appreciation, motivation and safety. Our aim is to build resilience in our pupils, resilience in our parents and resilience in our school. We have a strong pastoral support team with two members of staff who engage with identified pupils on a daily basis developing positive mental health strategies to support our children. We also work closely with other agencies in Liverpool to bring about better outcomes for our pupils. We would like to do more and when funding comes into schools in 2019 we will strengthen our team and ensure we support more of our families and children in need.

The LJMU ITE team

One of the ways in which we at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) are helping to develop teachers in the area of mental health is through the Mental Health Conference. This second conference builds on the success of the first conference last year and the programme brings together soon to be newly qualified teachers working in partnership with educational and health professionals. The overall aim of the day is to improve awareness and knowledge to support young people, children and teachers’ mental health and well-being in schools.  This conference has received a great deal of support, good will, enthusiasm and excitement from our local and national workforce in the statutory and non-statutory sectors and we are delighted to host this conference. This wide range of skills and experience will mean that our LJMU trainees will receive a diverse range of learning opportunities throughout the day. Most importantly they will be able to take this learning out into the workplace to shape practice as teachers and support the well-being of the many children and young people they will have the pleasure and privilege to teach over the years and safeguard their own mental health and wellbeing as a beginning teacher.

Matt Blow, policy manager at YoungMinds

Children and young people today face a huge range of pressures, from exam stress to cyberbullying to problems at home – and it can be extremely difficult for them to find the help that they need when times are tough. While schools shouldn’t be expected to replace specialist mental health services, they have a crucial role to play in helping young people develop the skills they need to cope in today’s world, and in intervening early when problems do emerge. Unfortunately, as most young people, parents and teachers agree, the current education system is fundamentally unbalanced, and places a far greater focus on exam results than on the wellbeing of students. That’s why it’s time to rebalance the education system. Schools that prioritise wellbeing actually tend to do better academically, so we’re calling on the government to focus on promoting good mental health rather than putting children under yet more pressure. Lots of schools are doing great work on wellbeing, but are held back by a lack of training and support. The government should encourage all schools to prioritise student wellbeing and mental health, through improved funding and better recognition for the good work that they do.

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About Author: Alan Birkett