Providing a mentally healthy, nurturing culture for our children, parent and staff community has always been a priority because we know children learn best when they feel safe and secure. We also know that this contributes to good mental health which is fundamental for leading a full and active life.
Getting the culture just right requires a whole school approach and is driven by people within the school community. This means everyone working in the school having shared understanding of the importance of contributing to a safe and nurturing culture, knowing what signs to look for and what provision is available to promote good mental health.
Whilst early intervention is important, prevention is better than cure and we believe it is important that our curriculum provides opportunities for children to build resilience and learn self- help skills that will enable them to cope with life's challenges.
What Is Mental Health?
We all have a degree of mental health just as we have a degree of physical health. Mental health includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.
Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood? It is quite natural for children to worry and to be anxious at various stages of school and home life.
However, there becomes a point where anxieties and worries can consume one’s life to a point affecting their emotional, psychological, social well-being and ability to think, act and function.
Risks that can contribute to increased worries, anxieties and ill health comes in many forms. They can be linked to differences in a person's temperament (for example, being more emotionally placid or more volatile) as well as the result of exposure to harmful experiences, environments or events within the family, trauma, family harmony, loss, friendships, school, community, or more broadly in society e.g. through discrimination, poverty, homelessness etc.
Not all children exposed to risks develop mental health difficulties. Resilience is the ability to cope and thrive despite facing setbacks in life. Some children are naturally more resilient than others, but it is an aptitude that can be taught. For example, having the ability to stay calm can be particularly 'protective' when children are faced with difficulties as can the ability to put events into perspective and consider mistakes as positive opportunities for growth rather than something to dwell on.
We also know that certain harmful experiences in childhood can be detrimental to children’s development, resulting in hidden trauma and potentially leading to later physical and mental health problems, school disengagement and risk-taking behaviours.
These adverse childhood experiences include:
• neglect and abuse – including sexual abuse
• violence between parents/carers
• parental separation
• poor parental/carer mental health
• substance/alcohol misuse
For this reason, the ability to cope and thrive is not just about children learning skills, but is also about how adults in children’s lives, in their schools and communities take action to offset the family and environmental factors and barriers that can undermine children’s ability to thrive.
How do we promote good mental health and well-being?
Environment and culture
• creating a positive, safe, healthy and nurturing culture and environment.
• focusing on the positives, praising and celebrating achievements in order to build confidence and self-esteem.
• creating opportunities, time and places within a busy day for spiritual and emotional development in terms of mindfulness, appreciating the intangible, the value of silence, stillness and reflection
• teaching and reinforcing positive behaviours, decision making and protective factors such as social and emotional competency, growth mind set and resilience.
• encouraging and modelling the importance of community spirit, appreciation and helping/supporting others in need.
• encouraging and teaching about good physical health including healthy eating, exercise and the importance of drinking water and sleep.
• ensuring staff are aware of the importance of mental health, signs and symptoms and what help is available .
• developing a shared responsibility or identifying and responding to early warning sign of stress, anxiety and mental health concerns.
• providing timely in house pastoral support for those in need.
• signposting to the right external routes for support including counselling services such as the Emotional Well-being and Mental Health Service formerly CAMHS or other agencies.
• raising awareness that staff and parent/carers may have mental health issues, and the routes of support available to them.
Signs and symptoms
Mental health issues are not always blatantly obvious and can quickly become progressively worse and more apparent if left unchecked. Early identification and intervention is important to avoid matters escalating. To do this, we need to know when a person is in need as they are not always aware themselves. Sometimes concerns are raised by people who know them well - a parent or a member of staff who notices something is not quite right.
We recognise the family plays a key role in influencing children and young people’s emotional health and wellbeing; and will work in partnership with parents and carers to promote emotional health and wellbeing.
Signs and symptoms to look out for include:
• Intense worries or fears that get in the way of daily activities
• Sudden overwhelming fear for no reason, sometimes with a racing heart or fast breathing.
• Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared
• Yelling or fighting with family and friends.
• Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
• Having persistent thoughts and memories you can't get out of your head
• Eating or sleeping too much or too little
• Pulling away from people and usual activities
• Having low or no energy
• Feeling numb or like nothing matters
• Having unexplained aches and pains
• Feeling helpless or hopeless
• Hearing voices or believing things that are not true
• Thinking of harming yourself or others
• Inability to perform daily tasks.
• Self-harm or making plans to do so
• Involvement in many fights or desire to badly hurt others
• Severe out-of-control behaviour that can hurt oneself or others
• Extreme difficulty concentrating or staying still that puts a child in physical danger or causes problems in the classroom
We use a graduated approach based on an assessment of need. In this first instance, we offer in school support. This includes pastoral support and in some case focused activities through a planned programme of support. If the need is beyond the schools expertise, we turn to external providers who specialise in more complex needs. If the child is in immediate danger, we follow our Child Protection procedures.
In the first instance, pastoral support is considered.
Pastoral support provides a listening ear as well as providing information, advice and guidance. This can help identify what might be the root of a person’s difficulties.We have a dedicated person who specialises in this role.
Alternatively, Pastoral Support can be offered by another adult in the school who the child knows well. It could be a Learning Support Assistant or Class teacher.
A Focused Plan
If the concern requires more than a listening ear, guidance and support, a plan may be put in place. For example teaching the child strategies for coping with difficult situations, friendships, bullying, coping with tests etc.
Alternatively, reasonable adjustments may need to be made to reduce the stressors or causes of anxiety. Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder for example often require a different approach to lessen the impact of stressors on their anxiety and well-being. Sometimes these adjustments are temporary measures. Each case is dealt with on a case by case basis and the type of support may vary.
Where the needs of the child are such that more specialist help is required, we discuss this with parents and the routes available to seek outside the school setting.
This may include providing advice for parents/carers, or seeking advice from the Local Authority’s Specialist Teachers for Social Emotional and Mental Health Needs (SEMH).
Social, Emotional and Mental Health needs’ (SEMH) is an overarching term for children and young people who show difficulties in one or more of the following:
• managing their emotions
• social interaction
• mental health
These difficulties may be displayed through them becoming withdrawn or isolated, as well as through challenging behaviour.
For some children difficulties in their emotional and social development can mean that they need additional and different provision in their school in order to achieve. It is important that they are able to form and maintain healthy relationships and fully engage in the learning opportunities provided.
In some circumstance, a referral to the GP or Emotional Well-being and mental health service may be appropriate.
In the first instance EWMHS will be look to promote the use of early intervention services, which may include psycho-education, talking therapies, mentoring or support as recommended within the National Institute of Clinical Excellence Guidelines. There are a variety of local resources available external to EWMHS which are able to provide a range of supportive interventions which may be recommended following triage. This support includes digital and online resources for example websites and Apps. These are freely available and maybe accessed via the NELFT EWMHS web resource at:
and also NHS App library at
We have a list of other website links below which families can access for advice and support.
Where concerns are such that we feel the child is at risk of immediate harm, our Child Protection procedures are followed.
If a parent is concerned about a child’s wellbeing, they should feel at ease to discuss this with an adult at the school. This could be the class teacher in the first, the pastoral leader/Family Support Worker or the head teacher.
If a child has received a diagnosis of a mental health issue, or is receiving support either through Emotional Wellbeing Health Service or another organisation, we will consider drawing up an Individual Care Plan. This plan should involve the pupil, parents, and relevant professionals.
Above all, promoting good mental health and wellbeing in schools relies on every member of staff playing their part. Every interaction between a child and a staff member is significant and can shape a child’s thinking or hold a part of the jigsaw that could support a struggling child to move forward.