Mental Health and Wellbeing Support at West Lakes Academy
Maintaining every day, regular routines wherever possible, such as, attending school and lessons whilst working towards managing mental health is key. The academy offers a range of services to help students develop positive mental health and wellbeing and support those experiencing mental health issues. The pastoral team support positive mental health and wellbeing across the academy and we have our own Resilience Lab initiative, which is led by students to support students. A number of our staff are trained in Youth Mental Health and First Aid.
To clarify, support is available from a number of areas within the academy:
- Form Tutors are well placed to be available to discuss any issues. Many things can cause a change in mental health including traumatic events (e.g. loss or separation, life changes, abuse, domestic violence or bullying).
- Heads of Year are available to provide guidance and support and can work as a link between home and school.
- Resilience Lab Ambassadors are a group of students who have volunteered to be a ‘go to’ for students experiencing mental health issues.
- PD and PE staff have a good overview of mental health and wellbeing and teach all students in Years 7-11.
- Our Inclusion staff are experienced and eager to support.
- Ms Tuck is available to support with both physical and mental first aid.
- Miss McCabe leads on mental health and wellbeing across school and is always keen to support in any way possible.
We take staff happiness, mental health and wellbeing seriously. We believe the following points are very important and we are working to promote and embed this:
- We all have a mental health
- We all need someone to talk to
- We all need a bit of fun
- We all need to feel part of a community
- We all need to feel valued and successful
- We all have the right to a work-life balance
- A staff working group known as (STIG) will meet throughout the year and as part of this time they will discuss how as an organisation we can encourage staff happiness, mental health and wellbeing.
- Miss McCabe leads on mental health and wellbeing across the academy and is always keen to support in any way possible
West Lakes Academy’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Update – September 2019
Looking at key documents such as Keeping Children Safe in Education 2019 and the new Ofsted framework it is clear that there is a clear focus in relation to child mental health and wellbeing. As an academy we fully support this drive and we are working to ensure we foster a positive approach to mental health and wellbeing.
Our decision to focus on mental health and wellbeing was based on a multitude of factors rather than any one reason. As an outstanding, forward thinking school, West Lakes Academy is always looking to provide students with the very best experiences and opportunities so that they are able to lead fulfilling lives.
Through close analysis of our results each August, we have become increasingly aware of a small but significant cohort of students who underachieve compared to their predicted grades because of known mental health issues at a key point before their exams. We were also aware of a number of students who were struggling to positively engage with school expectations and successfully access learning because of mental health and wellbeing issues. Also the use of social media and family issues can have a huge impact on teenagers and their schooling; and the number of cases and their complexities appear to be increasing.
Children and young people’s mental health is regularly in the headlines and gaining momentum on the national agenda. Faced with a lack of resources, poor service and long waiting times for child mental health issues when compared to adult mental health and other illnesses, things need to change. Especially concerning are the studies highlighting mental health as the biggest issue facing children and young people. With scarce resources and clear evidence that mental health issues are impacting on student performance, behaviour and lives, we know we have to play our part.
Anything we can do as an academy is a positive and we are eager to do the very best possible for our students so they are able to achieve success, make the next steps and be prepared for life.
We know that if we are going to have an impact a holistic approach is key, building a culture and ethos that promotes and supports mental health and wellbeing.
In education the range of terms currently used include emotional health and wellbeing; emotional intelligence; mental health; positive mental health; or mental health and wellbeing. All of these terms are interpreted slightly differently by individuals. The word ‘mental’ is often avoided because it is argued that this gives negative vibes. We do not believe that this word should be shied away from, if a young person is looking for help and support they will enter ‘mental’ into a search engine. We need to ensure they are successful with their search so they are able to access support. We all accept that we all have mental health which we need to take care of, in just the same way as we have physical health that we need to look after. Therefore ‘mental health’ shouldn’t have negative connotations, and a key task for us is to destigmatise the term and promote positive mental health.
As an academy we work to raise awareness and destigmatise mental health and wellbeing, through a carefully planned programme of assemblies, form discussions, PSHE lessons and academy council projects. We know our students want greater support. We display relevant information around the academy on notice boards and share links via emails or the website, this is our way of signposting the relevant information.
We have launched many initiatives to develop our work in this area:
- We have staff who have completed the youth mental health first aid training.
- We have formed our own in school initiative, the resilience lab and students involved have received training from external professionals. They have since developed a tool kit of strategies and approaches of support. They have also developed Olly the Octopus and we hope to relaunch this and engage a greater number of students with this.
- We have held screen free weeks to allow young people to switch off and unplug during the school day.
- We have held sessions for parents such as The Teenage Brain, to share information regarding development through the teenage years.
- We support mental health awareness events.
- We have developed greater links with external agencies such as safety net.
- We have adapted the Year 11 tutor programme of study.
While we have made inroads, we are looking to make this area much more prominent and easily accessible, providing information for students, staff and parents/carers. We are currently exploring links with other local schools and locally known support groups. We are also aiming to achieve the school mental health award within this academic year.