Do we do enough on positive mental health?

Hard to say definitely, isn’t it, while there is a demand for more? But the same is true for so many things that schools provide, or provide access to. This week, as many weeks, we have seen parents seeking SEND support for their children being denied a formal assessment. We have had conversations about Social Care interventions where the parent has felt the threshold for intervention is too high (and in previous weeks, with other parents, set too low). We have talked with families where it is clear that sustained and effective therapeutic services are needed but not yet available for the child and their family.

So what have we done, what do we do, and what are we intending to do?

  • We were in on the trial of the Healthy Minds Project that sought to improve links and understanding between CAMHS and schools.
  • We bought into and promote the Rights Respecting Schools scheme because we believe in every child receiving the support they need.
  • We still, despite cuts in funding and ‘austerity’, employ staff principally for pastoral work.
  • We signpost to MAST agencies through drop-in sessions, held in school.
  • We also attend and submit requests to a facilitation service known as Early Help Gateway.
  • Our site is fully used, with outdoor activities a key part of what we do, to allow maximum exercise opportunities, fresh air and connection to nature –
We use our wood for ‘forest school’ type work,
    We have three orchards,
      We have a slide, and climbing frames, and a carpeted playground, and two table tennis tables,
        We have five bike racks,
          We have seating areas all around the site, with at least 12 tables and benches,
            We have developed the inner courtyard to provide a quieter space,
              Equipment is on a rota so every child gets a turn,
                Queues are discouraged so time is not lost standing still,
                  We play out in wind and (light) rain and snow.
                    • School Council actually listens to children.
                    • The Hub provides a secure learning environment for some vulnerable children.
                    • We let children choose where to sit for lunch; they sit with friends and sit outside if the weather is good.
                    • School lunches meet all the necessary standards.
                    • Lunchtime games club, and lots of others, provide spaces for children who do not feel comfortable outside in the hurly-burly.
                    • Rewards are many, vast in number and wide on range, and really carry weight with the children.
                    • Sanctions are few and light, and we rarely use them.
                    • We still have two play times each day, definitely bucking a trend.
                    • The title of our behaviour policy tells a great deal – the Positive Relationships Policy.
                    • Every new starter fits in quickly, having been supported by eager volunteer buddies.
                    • Children frequently ask to run fund-raisers and give the money away each time.
                    • We give a huge number of responsibilities and encourage helpfulness (one of the key factors in promoting resilience in younger children).
                    • PSHE and RRS lessons are given weekly, and these always include discussion.
                    • We encourage our pupils to be ‘politely assertive’ and we welcome conversations and questions from pupils.
                    • Transition, something that can lead to worry, is very well supported and is a thorough process.
                    • Low staff turnover means we know children and families very well.
                    • Children in crisis are listened to, are supported, are understood and are never blamed.
                    • Children living around a crisis are supported so that they can empathise and recognise that they are not harmed.
                    • Children’s friendships are always considered when we make changes.
                    • The school’s ethos is very much about enjoying learning – we want to present an exciting and engaging curriculum. We do not stress test scores or exam results.
                    • We have done as much work on developing social spaces as learning spaces.
                    • We are in the middle of an appointment process for two teaching Assistants so we can further support across school.
                    • Work continues with catering services with plans in place for noticeable improvements by Easter that will make lunchtimes better still.
                    • The lunchtime staff identified ‘making lunchtimes happier’ as an aim.
                    • The grant for ‘little extras’ is being spent directly on children, funding in entirety a trip for each class.
                    • Year 4 children all have yoga classes.
                    • Year 6 last year enjoyed a set of additional PE classes that was aimed at mental health.
                    • Parents and carers are actively encouraged to be involved in their child’s learning and school life (another key factor in developing resilience).
                    • We will be training some staff on therapy techniques so they can run activities in school.
                    • Drinking water is always available.
                    • Difference is respected.

                  Not a short list, but we hope an effective provision. We could, of course do more.

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