Our approach to mental health and wellbeing in schools is built on a framework developed by Professor Katherine Weare in 2015.
This framework covers two overlapping areas of school practice: promoting positive social and emotional wellbeing for all in schools, and tackling the mental health problems of pupils in more serious difficulty.
It is designed to support schools, in particular, school leaders, in the delivery of their work on these two areas and complements other guidance from the Department for Education and from Public Health England.
This advice sets out a series of framing principles which are directly informed by the evidence from international research, systematic reviews and control trials of interventions and on national and local evaluations of recent work in schools.
It is designed to support school leaders and their staff to deliver well designed and implemented, interventions and approaches, drawing on the latest evidence that will impact on:
- Academic learning, motivation, and sense of commitment and connectedness to school;
- Staff wellbeing, stress reduction and performance;
- Pupil wellbeing and the development of social and emotional skills;
- The prevention and reduction of mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety and stress;
- Improving school behaviour and reductions in risky behaviour.
- Engage pupils through encouraging pupil voice, authentic involvement in learning, decision-making and peer-led approaches.
- Engage parents/carers and families in genuine participation, particularly those of pupils in difficulties whose families may feel blamed and stigmatised.
Prioritise professional learning and staff development
- Understand the risk factors to wellbeing, and help pupils develop the resilience to overcome adverse circumstances
- Raise staff awareness about mental health problems and the school’s role in intervening early
- Base their response on a sound understanding of child and adolescent development
- Help all pupils cope with predictable changes and transitions, and keep abreast of new challenges posed by technology.
Develop supportive policy
- Ensure that there are robust policies and practice in areas such as behaviour, anti-bullying and diversity, including tackling prejudice and stigma around mental health.
Implement targeted programmes and interventions (including curriculum)
- Ensure high-quality implementation of specific programmes and interventions
- Explicitly teach social and emotional skills, attitudes and values, using well-trained and enthusiastic teachers and positive, experiential and interactive methods.
- Integrate this learning into the mainstream processes of school life.
Implement targeted responses and identify specialist pathways
- Provide more intense work on social and emotional skill development for pupils in difficulties, including one-to-one and group work.
- Use specialist staff to initiate innovative and specialist programmes to ensure they are implemented authentically, then transfer responsibility to mainstream staff whenever possible, to ensure sustainability and integration.
- Where pupils experience difficulties, provide clear plans and pathways for help and referral, using a coherent teamwork approach, including in the involvement of outside agencies such as CAMHS.
Connect appropriately with approaches to behaviour management
- Respond wisely to ‘difficult’ behaviour, both responding actively with clear consequences and also understanding its deeper roots, taking opportunities to model and teach positive alternatives.