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Leeds conference to shape national agenda on mental health in schools


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Schools and mental health experts from across the country will gather at Leeds Beckett University this month to help shape the agenda on mental health in schools.

Headingley Campus James Graham Building

The first annual Schools’ Mental Health Conference has been organised by the new Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools, a partnership between Leeds Beckett University’s Carnegie School of Education and social enterprise, Minds Ahead. The conference will also mark the official launch of the new Centre.

The conference takes place on Monday 26 June at the University’s Headingley Campus and will bring together leaders in education and mental health.  The event will link national government policy with examples of innovative provision within schools and the latest thinking from national organisations including the Teacher Development Trust and the Children’s and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition.

Following the Prime Minister’s statement that the lack of mental health support in the UK is a social injustice, the event aims to make sense of what the fast-moving national policies mean for schools, providing attendees with practical methods proven to build student resilience.

Professor Damien Page
Professor Damien Page

Professor Damien Page, Dean of the Carnegie School of Education at Leeds Beckett, said: “Mental health within schools is not just the concern of specialists: it’s the concern of everyone committed to improving the life chances of children. This conference aims to attract participants from all sections of the education community, from governors to clinical commissioning groups, all working to address the lack of mental health support in schools. In Minds Ahead we’ve found a partner who is equally committed to outcomes for children and addressing what has quite rightly been described as a social injustice.”

Dean Johnstone, Founder and CEO of Minds Ahead, said: "As a Yorkshire man, it makes me proud to be working with Leeds Beckett to create the Schools' Mental Health Conference 2017. Mental health problems affect every classroom and limit the potential of too many children. Yet within Yorkshire there is innovative practice and inspirational leadership around this area. This conference will showcase some of this impressive work whilst also ensuring the national discussion on mental health is made relevant for our schools. It is a chance for the region to help shape the agenda on mental health in schools and to learn from, and share with, each other."

The conference includes talks by the regional NHS England Manager for children and young people’s emotional health and wellbeing; the Children and Adolescents Mental Health Services School Link Lead; and the Mentoring Manager from The Diana Award. Innovative projects that the new Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools has developed will also be highlighted.

Dean Johnstone
Dean Johnstone

The partnership between the Carnegie School of Education at Leeds Beckett and Minds Ahead was launched in January 2017 with the aim of transforming the practice of trainee teachers at Leeds Beckett and of the schools and teachers working with the University. In May 2017, this developed into a longer term partnership with the creation of the UK’s first university Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools.

Professor Page added: “This is an exciting partnership which is addressing an important need in the teaching workforce.  Half of all people who suffer mental illness experience the onset of symptoms by the age of 14; and so educators need not only to know about mental health in children but to be able to respond compassionately to this growing problem.”

Recent advice from the Department for Education has identified mental health as a critical concern for schools and their teachers, showing that too many vulnerable young people are not receiving the support they need. More than half of head teachers consider local mental health resources to be insufficient they have seen an increase in mental health problems amongst their pupils.

The Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools was established at Leeds Beckett University in May 2017 as the UK’s first university Centre dedicated to strengthening mental health in schools across the whole of the UK.

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