UK’s first university centre for mental health in schools calls for major changes in government policy
4 October 2017 - Carrie Braithwaite
The national Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools at Leeds Beckett University has called for a comprehensive programme of development in mental health for all schools in the UK.
The Centre has set out a series of recommendations for government, which have been backed by the Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools Advisory Board, including Nicky Morgan MP, Former Secretary of State for Education and current Chair of the Treasury Select Committee.
The Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools, which is a partnership between the Carnegie School of Education at Leeds Beckett University and social enterprise, Minds Ahead, states that every school in the UK needs:
- Professional development and guidance around mental health for everyone working in and with the school, including a mental health lead in every school
- A regional network
- A School Mental Health Quality kite-mark
- Access to new cutting-edge research into school based mental health strategies
To achieve this, the Centre has devised:
- A range of training programmes for school colleagues at all levels, including guidance and e-learning in partnership with TheSchoolBus for school governors and is developing a Masters level qualification in School Mental Health Leadership, which will set the standard when it comes to leadership of mental health within schools.
- An annual research grant, the Carey Philpott Award, dedicated to school mental health and given each year to a school to test and develop mental health strategies with the help of a Leeds Beckett University Professor.
- A national forum to inform and influence policy by making evidence-based calls to action, providing guidance and resources, including online toolkits.
- An annual UK-wide conference, the next will be held on Friday 29 June 2018 and will include a key note speech by Nicky Morgan MP.
- A School Mental Health Quality accreditation for schools to evidence and show effectiveness and impact of their whole school approach to mental health.
- An annual Mental Health and Wellbeing in Schools Day to profile the mental health needs within schools, provide solutions that schools can use and showcase the quality work taking place within schools. The first date is set for Friday 16 March 2018.
Dean Johnstone, CEO of Minds Ahead, said: “We all have mental health and there are simple yet proven steps schools can take to strengthen the resilience of all their students. 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. School leaders are seeking evidence-informed solutions which are integrated within the school routines. Our call is to support this approach.”
Professor Damien Page, Dean of the Carnegie School of Education at Leeds Beckett University (pictured top), commented: “The Centre is the first of its kind to be established in the UK and 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.”
Sharon White OBE, CEO of the School and Public Health Nurses Association (SAPHNA) and member of the Centre’s Advisory Board, said: “The ever increasing demands placed on schools to support children and young people’s mental health, requires support and partnership working across a range of professional disciplines including school nursing, therapists and mental health services. This enables a whole systems approach underpinned by the correct experience, knowledge and skills.”
Nicky Morgan MP added: “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. 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 Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools was launched in May 2017. At its core is a collaborative approach, which brings together existing expertise from a range of sectors, working together to make real changes and to lead innovation across the country in response to the needs of schools, pupils, parents and carers.
Professor Damien Page explained: “Through the Centre, we are creating a network of practitioners – educators, mental health service providers and researchers – to define and share best practice and to support schools across the UK to implement this.
“As one of the country’s best performing providers of teacher education, we’re committed to working with schools to improve outcomes for children. But focusing on improving classroom practice is not enough; we need to address the mental health of children first and train our students to look after children in the widest sense. The new Centre will give them the best possible grounding whilst boosting the skills of existing teachers and showing senior leaders how to take on a whole school approach to tackling mental health.”