Charlotte Reed is phase lead at Bosmere Junior School in Hampshire. She tells us about her experience of senior mental health lead training and how it’s helped her identify how the school can further support its staff and pupils with their mental health and wellbeing.
Our school has always been proactive in supporting pupils’ mental health and wellbeing, so we welcomed the opportunity to formalise our practice through the DfE’s senior mental health lead training.
The training has helped our school to see where we already had appropriate support in place, but also where further work was needed. As soon as I completed the first training session, I did an audit of our current practice, to identify which aspects of our whole school approach could be improved.
The eight points below are the quick and relatively simple fixes I incorporated into our mental health strategic plan:
- Leadership and management: one of our solutions was to appoint a mental health governor. We agreed a role description and a list of possible questions from the senior lead training that they could ask when monitoring mental health support. We also made sure that mental health was included in our safeguarding, behaviour, safety and diversity policies. Having whole staff buy-in is also important, so we added mental health and wellbeing to our regular Senior Leadership Team meeting agenda, reporting achievements and setting out next steps.
- Identifying need and monitoring the impact of interventions: we currently use the software, CPOMs, to record our safeguarding and behaviour concerns. By adding a mental health tag, we can keep a record of pupils with a mental health concern, the support provided and the impact of interventions. We have since subdivided this tag, so that we can also record family member mental health concerns, alongside the pupil.
- Curriculum, teaching and learning: I identified where mental health activities were already being delivered, such as through Personal Social Health and Economic (PSHE) lessons or assemblies. I then mapped these out across the wider curriculum, so mental health and wellbeing could be embedded through our whole school vision.
- Pupil voice: we tweaked a questionnaire from the senior mental health lead training and set it as a survey for pupils to complete. This enabled us to then create more tailored support groups for different years and genders based on their responses. Pupil mental health and wellbeing displays have also now been created based on pupil need.
- Staff development: a mental health board in our staff room ensures staff wellbeing is considered. This board has links to resources and websites, as well phone numbers for support. Any new initiatives, which might be useful for particular groups of children, are shared here. There is currently information pertaining to World Mental Health Day 2022. A new staff mental health and wellbeing policy is also being developed.
- Working with parents and carers: our parent information board gives families access to information they may need about support for their children. We have an open-door policy, and our Home School Link Worker meets parents and pupils every morning so they know they can access immediate support if needed. We also hold regular coffee mornings for parents and these focus on common areas of need. For example, September focused on separation anxiety, as this was a specific concern for many of our parents and pupils at the start of a new school year.
- Direct targeted support and appropriate referrals: we are currently part of the Mental Health Support Team rollout, which will help provide further support and referrals so that pupils requiring more targeted or specialist mental health support and advice can receive this when they need it. I was made aware of the importance of signing up to these teams through the senior mental health lead training.
- Our ethos promotes respect: we want all our children to be part of a set of values we call HEARTS: Healthy, Empathetic, Aspirational, Respectful. Trustworthy and Safe. These underpin our whole curriculum and there is a half termly focus on each one where pupils are rewarded for demonstrating that behaviour.
By pulling together everything we were already doing as a school community, and making a few small, but impactful changes, I was able to make sure that we are fully covering the eight aspects of a whole school approach to mental health and wellbeing. The school now has an improved support offer, and the training has been hugely helpful in identifying areas where more work is needed over the next year.
Get further information about senior mental health lead training
Head to gov.uk to find out more about the grant funding available for mental health lead training for your school or college. You can choose from over 100 courses aimed at beginner, intermediate or advanced levels, and can also use your grant for supply cover while undertaking training.