At Dean Bank Primary and Nursery School we have always known that meeting the mental health and emotional wellbeing needs of our children staff and parents was fundamental to helping them achieve the best that they could. We felt we already worked hard to support these but to get a truer picture of where we were at, we decided to aim for the Wellbeing Award for Schools (WAS) this was through Optimus. After our initial R.A.G. rating of the various areas we were surprised to find we were not doing as much as we first thought. Coinciding with the start of the WAS journey, the school made a member of staff permanent.
What have we been doing?
Since the October half term, we have been support by the Mental Health Support Teams. This partnership means we have access to a mental health support worker, who comes into the school or half a day every week. Her job is to support the school with low to medium level mental health difficulties of children, staff and parents. She has helped the school identify several children who were “under the radar” with attention difficulties and also a few with ASD traits. She has also helped to us fill comprehensive referrals to relevant agencies as well as signposting us in other directions to support our children.
In regards to training the entire school staff has completed an Education for wellbeing programme from the Anna Freud Centre, this was to give the whole workforce a general understanding of the importance of wellbeing and its impact on the children and their education. Also, a member of staff trained in the connecting with children programme (this is a nurture based therapeutic intervention). The member of staff has been given a room in which to run this programme and this room has been identified specifically to support children who struggle emotionally in school.
What has been the impact?
In the short time we have been doing this, we have seen an improvement in behaviour. The number of detentions are down and the number of incidents of poor behaviour being reported are down. However the number of concerns about children and their wellbeing are up (which shows the increase in staff awareness). After a recent school wide survey the majority of staff and nearly all the children said that the school “Look after and care about their wellbeing”
This is what some of our staff and children said:
There is an improved knowledge of mental health and wellbeing within the school, this has made me feel more comfortable as I suffer with depression. Everyone has more awareness of the signs to look out for and how to support me. – Staff member
I feel as though the wellbeing support for staff and children is improving all the time. It is a subject we talk about regularly as a school. Both staff and children pupils know what is available to them if they are struggling. Being part of the team responsible for the Wellbeing Award means I feel more confident opening up to staff members about how I am feeling, whether it is positive or negative. – Staff Member
We can take breaks out of class and do our work in a different room. – Year 5 child
Teachers give us time to talk. We walk and talk. – Year 4 child
We can talk to our school councillor or our Wellbeing Buddy. – Year 6 child
Next Steps and Sustainability?
As a school our next step is to increase the engagement of our parents and make them feel included in the mental health and wellbeing discussions to also provide them with more support for themselves and their children at home. We will also look to complete our Wellbeing award by September.
As for sustainability, this has been a slow shift in culture across the school and it is being embedded across the entire as something we just do therefore it will be sustainable. With a specific member of staff as a dedicated mental health and wellbeing lead overseeing the implementation of the ethos across the school.