A former head teacher who now oversees inclusion for the East Midlands Academy Trust has said a mental health programme she introduced at her former school has “changed children’s lives”.
One of the trust’s schools, Castle Academy on St George’s Street in Northampton, was the first primary school to sign up to the St Andrew’s School Mental Wellness Programme, LightBulb.
The programme, which can also be used in secondary schools, was written by teachers from the St Andrew’s College. It has been designed to help teachers spot the early signs of mental health issues in children and then take appropriate early action.
Lorna Beard, who has now been promoted, was so impressed with the outcome of the initiative she is now rolling it out across the trust’s other six schools.
She said: “According to figures published a few years ago, mental health numbers have gone up among children, from one in ten in 2004 to one in nine in 2017 and that was before the pandemic.
“Since then, lockdown, school closures, disruptive home environments and disturbing news stories have all played a part in affecting our children’s mental health so now is the time to start taking action and putting interventions in place to help them, before it’s too late.
“LightBulb was a hit from the start and helped us to build on the work already happening within the school around mental health. We quickly saw significant improvements across our staff, students and parents. Everyone felt more supported, reassured and more confident in spotting the signs and seeking the appropriate help.
“Having seen first-hand the difference LightBulb has made I can confidently say it’s changed children’s lives and will go a very long way in providing the building blocks for openly talking about worries and concerns which if left, could have devastating outcomes in the long-term.”
LightBulb provides a ready-made framework for schools so those that participate can demonstrate and showcase excellence regarding mental health practice to regulatory bodies such as Ofsted.
Once signed up, the school receives mental health awareness and support training for all school staff as well as sessions for both parents and students. Each session talks about symptoms, support and signposts resources.
Cheryl Smith, Headteacher of the St Andrew’s College, said: “At St Andrew’s we care for some very poorly young people who have not received the help they needed until it was too late, leading to them needing to come into hospital. It is a worrying situation and the role schools can play is recognising and supporting mental wellbeing is paramount in ensuring young people have access to support when it is most needed.”
“As a team, we wanted to find a way to target young people and try and equip them with the skills they need to be resilient and seek help about mental health issues, hopefully reducing the distress they experience and positively impacting the outcomes they experience. We believe early intervention is essential and can make a huge difference to the wellbeing of those children who are experiencing mental health issues.”
“Lightbulb is not just about helping children, parents and teachers to recognise the signs early, it’s also about creating a culture of positive mental health which is driven by school leaders and embedded in practice.”
“We firmly believe that this approach could significantly reduce the number of children who go on to develop complex mental health problems, but will also encourage their development of resilience, coping skills and self-help skills which are vital for overall development.”
The school has put mental health at the top of its agenda and has implemented several different approaches which have been extremely successful with the children.
Ellie Finch, who is Castle Academy’s Mental Health Lead, said: “We have children from all walks of life attend Castle Academy and from time to time school life can become a bit much. We’ve introduced Calm Corners into every classroom so our students have a quiet place to go during lessons.
“At playtime they have access to Hobbit Holes which provide children with a safe space to go, away from the hustle and bustle of the playground. We’ve also placed Worry Monster post-boxes all over the school so our children can post their concerns any time they wish and an adult will follow it up.
“Working with St Andrew’s gave us the confirmation that we were on the right track to support and build on the children’s mental health and wellbeing using strategies that we had in place.”
To view a video about LightBulb, click here.
Copy provided by St Andrew’s Healthcare