North-West and Yorkshire Academy Trust champions mental health and wellbeing

Focus-Trust introduces new trust-wide action plan to tackle mental health in schools.
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Andrew Chadwick, Safeguarding, Ambition and Inclusion Lead at Focus-Trust, is championing a trust-wide action plan to ensure further capacity for mental health and wellbeing provisions for all Trust schools.

Mental health has always been important at Focus-Trust; however, after the Covid-19 lockdowns, Andrew found himself (like many) dealing with increasing challenges from pupils, parents, and staff.

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Andrew took Real Training’s Senior Mental Health Lead Advanced Award; this was key in developing a whole-school approach , which included:

Andrew ChadwickAndrew Chadwick
Andrew Chadwick
  • Weekly play therapist sessions to help pupils suffering with trauma,
  • Drop-in mums-only wellbeing group,
  • A parent outreach and communication programme via newsletters,
  • Specific staff training for those responsible for pupils who had experienced trauma,
  • All-staff training on social-emotional needs and mental health,
  • A cross-staff working party that reported back to the Senior Mental Health Lead,
  • An adapted version of the Zones of Regulation,
  • Wellbeing resources for both staff and parents on the school website.

Testing the system-wide approach at one school at the Trust allowed Andrew to create an open culture around mental health. Establishing an all-staff working party helped facilitate this, with lunchtime cover supervisors and support staff also keen to attend meetings.

Dr Joanna Wood, Senior Educational Psychologist at Real Training and Andrew’s course tutor said: “It was a real privilege to coach Andrew and see what he has managed to achieve in terms of improving mental health, both in his prior headship role and now in his current position at Focus-Trust.

“The impact of the pandemic is still being felt in schools, while the cost of living crisis is having a trickle-down effect on the well-being of both parents and young people.

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“On a more positive note, the Government recently announced that they are extending the support available for senior mental health leadership training - school leaders now have until the end of July to begin a course, although they still have to claim funding by 31 March.”

Andrew said: “The course has already had a real and positive impact; pupils, parents and staff throughout the Trust are having conversations about mental health more openly and with confidence.

“If a pupil, was saying they were a bit anxious about coming to school, (or a parent on their behalf), staff weren’t just waiting on my suggestions. Instead, they had the confidence to be able to say; don’t worry we can help, so when that pupil arrives in the morning, we can try one of our strategies to make it easier for them to come in.

“Staff well-being and high-quality supervision are also key priorities for Focus-Trust. We want our teachers to know that if they are feeling angry or overwhelmed, they can come and knock on the door of a leader, and that leader’s going to stop everything and talk to them.”

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Focus-Trust is a charitable primary schools trust which is based in the North West of England and West Yorkshire with a vision of providing ‘great schools at the heart of our communities’ where children thrive, achieve and succeed.

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