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First degree to support mental health leads in schools launched at Leeds Beckett


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The first university Masters degree programme developed to equip school leaders to protect the mental health and wellbeing of pupils, has been launched at Leeds Beckett University.

Headingley Campus James Graham building

The part-time, two-year MA, or one-year Postgraduate Certificate, in Leadership of School Mental Health and Wellbeing course, will run for the first time beginning in September 2018. The courses will run both at the University’s Headingley Campus and through distance learning.

Dr Tom Dobson, Course Director, explained: “With children’s mental health and wellbeing a growing concern and with the increasing fragmentation of support services, it is vital that school leaders have the multidisciplinary subject knowledge to implement effective change in a way that is sustainable.  As it stands, decisions relating to mental health and wellbeing are often made in a way that is not always informed: This course will provide school leaders with the knowledge and skills to make informed decisions which will make a real difference to the children and staff in their schools.”

Dr Tom Dobson
Dr Tom Dobson

The course aims to tackle the lack of mental health leadership in UK schools: the Department for Education (DfE) recently identified that only around half of all schools and colleges in the UK have a designated mental health lead and, of those, not all are clear on how to promote mental health wellbeing and deal with emerging issues.

The course is ideal for leaders in schools who are tasked with developing whole school approaches to look after the mental health and wellbeing of pupils, equipping them with the skills and experience to support and promote student resilience, positive mental health and prevention of mental illness.

The course has a practical focus and will see school leaders conduct mental health audits and implement, and critically evaluate, whole school action plans with a view to directly improving the mental health and wellbeing of pupils and staff in a sustainable way. 

The first course of its kind, it will span a range of disciplines, from child therapy to education psychology, mental health nursing, school leadership and teaching.

The course will be delivered in conjunction with the Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools, a partnership between Leeds Beckett University and social enterprise and mental health experts Minds Ahead, who have a proven track record of leading system change in this area.  

Dean Johnstone, CEO of Minds Ahead, said: "There is a chronic lack of professional support and guidance for the growing number of mental health leads within our schools. Committed school leaders and the children they support deserve much better. Yet again, Minds Ahead and the Carnegie School of Education at Leeds Beckett are working together to shape the agenda on mental health in our schools. The UK's first postgraduate course for school leaders of mental health and wellbeing will set the standard in this new area of school leadership." 

Speaking about the importance of a Masters course dedicated to leading mental health approaches in schools, Hannah Woodhouse, Assistant Head Teacher of Moorlands Primary School in Huddersfield, said: "With mental health and wellbeing high on everyone's agenda, it's such a fantastic opportunity to have the option to complete an academic, evidence-based qualification. There is so much information out there and this will, no doubt, support school leaders to learn essential skills themselves and confidently disseminate appropriate information to ensure a robust whole-school approach with clear pathways to success.

“Working with other leaders will ensure best practise is also shared and disseminated which will have such a positive impact across so many schools and communities, ensuring the best start for our children. This really is a wonderful opportunity to earn a qualification that could impact so positively on the lives of many."

Fiona McMillan, Assistant Head Teacher at Skipton Girls’ High School, added: “This MA programme in Leadership of School Mental Health and Wellbeing is long over-due and provides much needed opportunities for school leaders to engage with current research and share good practice. Having a whole school approach where school leaders have the confidence and tools to implement a positive culture of mental health awareness is crucial in all schools across the country. This exciting development in education will provide comprehensive support for both young people and staff in our schools.”

Schools with a member of staff participating on the course will be committing to a two-year change process for their school, which will include completing the popular Mental Health Award for Schools kitemark. Participants will also attend the Centre’s innovative national Mental Health in Schools Knowledge Exchange event on 29 June 2018. 

For more information, and to apply for the MA or Postgraduate Certificate in Leadership of School Mental Health and Wellbeing, please click here.  

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