children counsellingKings Hedges Educational Federation, a primary school in Cambridge, has won the Children & Young People’s Mental Health Coalition’s Resilience and Results Competition, which celebrates the work of schools to support the mental health and emotional wellbeing of their students, staff and parents.

Primary, secondary and special schools across England were invited to share their best practice approaches, with outstanding schools heralded as a benchmark for excellence across the education sector.

Kings Hedges Educational Federation was awarded the £5,000 first prize because the judges felt the school excelled due to its careful and innovative use of external services and resources, considered measurement and evaluation of achievements and strong evidence of placing pupil voice at the heart of its decision-making strategy.

Josephine Angel, headteacher at Kings Hedges Educational Federation, said: “We are delighted to receive this prize which will be used to continue to support our emotional resilience programme. This money will be used to help us support a particular project called ‘Blue Smile’, a counselling and mentoring service for children using art and play therapy techniques to enable children to explore their emotions and helps them to develop emotional resilience.”

Mick Atkinson, chair of schools and colleges for the Children & Young People’s Mental Health Coalition, added: “Kings Hedges Educational Federation clearly recognises the importance of supporting the mental health and emotional wellbeing of their pupils – something that is so crucial when at least three young people in every class have a behavioural or emotional difficulty.

“Through its creativity and commitment Kings Hedges really is a shining example of excellence. The Coalition will ensure that the school’s achievements are shared widely to help other schools in their efforts to provide such crucial support for their pupils. This will ultimately help to ensure that the current generation of children and young people grow up as mentally healthy and happy individuals.”

Celebrating whole school approaches

Runner-up prizes of £2,500 were awarded to Newall Green High School, Manchester and Epsom Downs Primary School and Children’s Centre, Surrey, whose whole school approaches to supporting mental health were celebrated by the judges.

A highly commended award was given to The Harbour School, a special school in Portsmouth, which adopted a collaborative approach across the school to facilitate inter-agency working.

The competition was judged by a panel of experts from the education, health and social care sectors. Led by Katherine Weare, Emeritus Professor of Education and Honorary Member at the Faculty of Public Health, the panel also included representation from young people.

Professor Weare said: “The innovative and wide-reaching programmes set up by these remarkable schools set an example for all those seeking guidance on effective whole school approaches to support mental health and emotional wellbeing.

“It is encouraging to see so many schools that place the mental health and wellbeing of their pupils at the heart of their work. They not only understand the inextricable link between emotional resilience and academic attainment, but how investment now can lay the foundations for a positive and mentally healthy adulthood.”