teacher 2Twelve schools in North Yorkshire have been celebrating the successes of the first year of a project that is seeking to take a preventative approach to children’s mental health.

The Star Learning Alliance of 12 rural schools in North Yorkshire is half-way through a 2-year £24,000 project funded by North Yorkshire County Council, aimed at increasing self-esteem and wellbeing and closing the attainment gap in educational achievement for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

These schools are introducing preventative programmes that, it is hoped, in the longer-term will reduce the need for clinical intervention and the number of adults in the next generation requiring mental health treatment.

At a celebration event on June 22, participating teachers and pupils shared their achievements and successes.

Gail Brown, executive head teacher for York-based Ebor Academy Trust and project lead, said at the end of the first year there was evidence of a direct, positive impact on attainment. “Schools have such a crucial role to play in the lives of children and young people and have to be aware of all their emotional and social circumstances,” she said.

Rebecca McGuinn, pastoral manager for Ebor Academy Trust and lead coordinator, said: “Every child can be accessed. It’s all about relationships and making children feel valued. At least in school, we can be a crutch for them and they are safe, which for some is an achievement in itself.”

For instance, Clifton with Rawcliffe School, a primary school in York, has introduced a number of initiatives to strengthen children’s mental health, including a focus on children having a ‘Growth Mindset’. In September 2015, the school piloted the ‘RWS | Resilience Wellbeing Success’ programme created by Paralympian Elizabeth Wright, cancer survivor Jayne Snell and happiness and resilience expert Frederika Roberts. Since then, the school has run the programme with two additional year groups and re-booked the trio for September. 

“It is a unique and innovative programme led by three inspirational women,” said Clifton with Rawcliffe deputy headteacher, Kerry Davies. “It is supported by Ofsted mapping and the lesson plans tick all the boxes in response to curriculum expectations.” 

A Year 4 parent from the school also said “I have used many of the strategies you teach in my own situation. I think that this should be taught on the National Curriculum.”

Other schools in York have also run the programme and opted to introduce this initiative in September. RWS will also continue to run in a Manchester school from September and be introduced to a school in Darlington.