school 180The National Children’s Bureau (NCB) has created new advice for schools to better support pupils with mental health issues and to promote wellbeing as part of school life.

The NCB's framework, 'What works in promoting social and emotional well-being and responding to mental health problems in schools?', identifies challenges to schools including the misuse of social media and cyberbullying, which are identified as major causes in the rise in emotional disorders.

A systematic review of best practice and research worldwide was conducted by Professor Katherine Weare for the Partnership for Wellbeing and Mental Health in Schools, which is a national network of 40 organisations hosted by the NCB.

The framework outlines effective approaches that include professional learning and staff development; adopting whole-school thinking; and developing robust policies to underpin a supportive environment. The emphasis is on developing a school and classroom climate which builds a sense of connectedness and purpose so that all children can thrive. It also highlights the need to promote staff wellbeing and particularly to address their stress levels.

Anna Feuchtwang, chief executive of the NCB, said: "This framework highlights the benefit of adopting a whole-school approach to promoting social and emotional wellbeing, to help address mental health problems both in pupils and staff.

"By framing principles which are directly informed by international research our aim is to give school leaders and their staff the best support to deliver effective interventions. This will impact on academic learning and motivation as well as staff and pupil wellbeing. It will reduce mental health problems and improve school behaviour."

The findings further identify the triggers that can lead to mental health issues such as: lack of trust, communication and relationship breakdowns and the possible lack of extended family ties.

The framework demonstrates how to engage the whole school community so that pupils feel their voice is heard and parents, carers and families feel they genuinely participate, particularly those of pupils in difficulties who otherwise may feel stigmatised.

Commenting on the new framework, Poppy Jaman, CEO of Mental Health First Aid England, said: "We fully support the National Children’s Bureau framework for best practice in this area and will work in partnership with the relevant organisations to ensure that mental health achieves parity of esteem within the education system. Adopting a whole-schools approach to mental health and wellbeing for pupils and teachers is imperative if we are to address the underlying issue of stigma and low awareness of mental health issues among staff and pupils.

"Mental Health First Aid should be part and parcel of teacher training, because it provides a network of support among teachers for their own mental health and it educates them to be able to recognise the early warning signs of a mental health issue in a young person. MHFA training doesn’t teach people to be counsellors or psychiatrists but it does give the participant the knowledge and confidence to spot the signs and symptoms of a mental health issues and guide them to appropriate support.

"It also makes sense that every school should have a designated Mental Health First Aider, in the same way they all have physical First Aiders. We are now seeing some of the UK’s leading employers adopting this approach and we believe that schools should be given the necessary investment to implement the same."

Read the framework in full at