St Swithun’s School scoops pioneering mental health award

15 Feb 2023

St Swithun’s school is celebrating after achieving the School Mental Health Award, delivered by the Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools. The school were awarded Gold standard, the highest level, for its outstanding mental health and wellbeing provision.

The school provides a wide range of initiatives to enhance the wellbeing of pupils and staff, with a key element of the support for pupils being the bespoke and unique Positive Education programme which focuses on feeling good, doing good and functioning well. Led by our clinical psychologist, Dr. O’Connor, alongside Mr Graham Yates (pastoral deputy head) it is an evidence-based approach to wellbeing, character development and enhancing academic achievement that not only seeks to alleviate and prevent mental health challenges but builds the resilience and mental toughness the pupils need to be the best they can be. All pupils have access to a bespoke student wellbeing website created and updated by the school and a wellbeing hub, an online portal with a range of resources and advice available to support pupils, parents and staff.

Our Positive Education programme now incorporates a five week course for parents which helps strengthen the link between school and home and supports parents in helping their children to thrive. Other elements of wellbeing are routinely shared through parent talks, the parent portal and The Wellbeing Hub.

A key element of achieving the Gold Award is the degree to which good practice is shared in the wider community to support others. Dr O’Connor and Mr Yates have presented the wellbeing programme at national teacher conferences, to members of the NHS and to over 20 Prep school headteachers last year, as well as publishing articles in the national arena.

St Swithun’s deputy head pastoral, Graham Yates said: “Offering outstanding pastoral care to our pupils is at the heart of what we do at St Swithun’s. We aim to create an environment in which all girls can flourish, whatever their unique tapestry of strengths and interests.

“Whether it is online or in person, students and staff know that there is a co-ordinated and effective support system in place alongside a commitment to pupil safety with a strong safeguarding culture.”

St Swithuns’s head, Jane Gandee added: “It is a huge credit to everyone involved in the school that we have received this award. The wellbeing of our pupils is our primary concern and we believe that girls who are happy, healthy and resilient are much more likely to achieve their goals and aspirations.”

The award was established in 2017 by the Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools – part of Leeds Beckett University – and social enterprise Minds Ahead.

The Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools aims to strengthen pupils’ mental health by supporting schools to make a positive change at all levels of the UK’s education system, improving students’ outcomes and life chances.

Rachel C. Boyle, Dean of Leeds Beckett’s Carnegie School of Education, said: “The achievement of the Mental Health award is a demonstration of the school’s significant commitment to improving children’s and staff’s mental health and wellbeing. It is also a commitment to developing practices in school that seek to improve awareness and expertise in creating safe and secure learning environments in which all children can truly fulfil their potential. This award is one that all staff can be truly proud of”.

Nationally, more than 1000 schools have signed up to take part in the mental health award.

Dean Johnstone, founder and CEO of Minds Ahead said: “This award shines a light on the excellent work schools are doing to promote mental health for their community of children and adults.

“It is thrilling and humbling to learn about St Swithun’s and the many other schools engaged in the quality award process. I’d like to offer my congratulations on this deserved recognition.”