Hayley Walton explains the importance of mental health and wellbeing not only being a part of the curriculum, but something to nurture every day.
As educators, we wear many different hats each day dependent on what the children under our care need. However, more often than not, we are expected to be experts in mental health and wellbeing. Most of us do not have the required training. We are blessed as a nation to have educators who care deeply about the children that they teach. They go above and beyond to meet the needs of their pupils but the role of school in relation to mental health and wellbeing needs to be more clearly defined.
Mental health and wellbeing in schools
In the UK, to maintain physical fitness and to develop a multitude of skills, Physical Education is compulsory (Government guidelines stipulate a minimum of two hours weekly). Mental health and wellbeing are no different. They require training and practise for children to understand their own mental health and how to better support their wellbeing. Progress has been made though. From September 2020, Health Education and RSE (Relationship Sex Education) will be made a compulsory part of the curriculum. This means that our children will be able to access regular lessons throughout their education.
However, we all know that mental health and wellbeing extends beyond protected time within school timetables. Due to this, every member of staff within a school needs to be aware of strategies to support children and young people who are facing difficulties with their mental health and wellbeing. We MUST create the right culture in our schools. Kerry Hill, head teacher at Eyres Monsell Primary School in Leicester, talks about how her staff model having a “grump on” to their children. This allows the children to understand that ALL of us have days where our mental health and wellbeing are compromised. From talking to Kerry, I hear that the children thoroughly enjoy “shaking the grump off” with a dance!
What can be done in schools to help spread awareness?
Mental health and wellbeing needs to be discussed, or alluded to, every day. By creating a culture that allows children and young people to explore and talk openly about their mental health we are empowering them to become emotionally intelligent. The School Planner Company’s customised planners can help. They can contain important information and strategies, along with daily mindfulness exercises. They provide a fantastic tool for school staff to refer to during times where children may be facing difficulties with their mental health and wellbeing (outside of the statutory lessons). The resources available allow habits to be formed and a safe space for children and young people to reflect upon their own mental health and wellbeing.
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