Thornhill Community Academy wins pioneering mental health award

Thornhill Community Academy has achieved the School Mental Health Award for its outstanding well-being provision.

By Staff Reporter
Saturday, 19th March 2022, 6:00 am
Deirdre Stevens, student support manager, runs a drawing and talking therapy session with a student at Thornhill Community Academy
Deirdre Stevens, student support manager, runs a drawing and talking therapy session with a student at Thornhill Community Academy

The academy was awarded a gold standard by the Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools in recognition of the wide range of activities it provides to boost the well-being of students and staff.

This year it introduced a new Student Support Hub, so the majority of pastoral services are all located in one area of school. This has made it much easier for students to find and access support.

The academy runs a Start Right programme which is available to all students from 8am every morning and enables them to alleviate worries and solve any issues before lessons begin.

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Nicola Holmes, coordinator of the School Mental Health Award, working with a student at Thornhill Community Academy

Prosper is a well-being service, offering interventions around mental health, behaviour, bereavement, relationships, self‐esteem and self‐care, among other things.

The staff team provide specialist interventions such as drawing and talking therapy and therapeutic story writing.

A visiting life coach helps students to recognise their own personal values and ambitions, set goals and track progress through a programme of structured exercises. A counsellor uses a person‐centred approach which is understanding, non‐judgmental, open, honest and friendly.

The academy also has a number of staff across the school who are trained mental health first aiders and are able to provide immediate well-being support when needed.

Claire Keen, student support manager (left), and Nicola Holmes, coordinator of the School Mental Health Award (right), working with Thornhill Community Academy students in the new Student Support Hub

Head teacher Matthew Burton said: “I am extremely proud that the academy has received the highest level of accreditation from the Carnegie Mental Health Award.

"It is a testament to the fantastic work of Nicola Holmes and a great many colleagues who have developed the excellent services and facilities that we are now able to offer to our students, bringing them the support that they need to succeed.

"I am really proud that our culture, built upon working hard and being nice, our work to look after and support each other, and the way that we look out for our colleagues’ and students’ mental well-being is acknowledged with this esteemed award.”

The award process took place over a period of 12 months and gave an opportunity to assess and improve the existing mental health and emotional well-being provision at Thornhill.

It was a team effort, with staff in a variety of roles across school undertaking additional training to increase their skills and knowledge.

Nicola Holmes, designated safeguarding lead who co-ordinated the award, said: “I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved and that Thornhill has been recognised as a place which promotes good mental health and emotional well-being.

"I feel lucky to work with so many colleagues who are dedicated to providing the best quality care for our students.”

The award was established in 2017 by the Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools – part of Leeds Beckett University – and social enterprise Minds Ahead.

The Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools aims to strengthen pupils’ mental health by supporting schools to make a positive change at all levels of the UK's education system, improving students’ outcomes and life chances.

Doctor Steve Burton, interim dean of Leeds Beckett’s Carnegie School of Education, said: “Achieving this award is not just recognition of a whole‐school approach to mental health, it’s a recognition of the school’s commitment to improving the life chances of children and engaging with the wider community including staff and parents/carers.

“We’re truly proud to have worked with Thornhill Community Academy in this vital work and look forward to further collaboration.”

Nationally, more than 1,000 schools have signed up to take part in the mental health award.

Dean Johnstone, founder and CEO of Minds Ahead, said: “This award shines a light on the excellent work schools are doing to promote mental health for their community of children and adults.

“It is thrilling and humbling to learn about Thornhill Community Academy and the many other schools engaged in the quality award process.

"I’d like to offer my congratulations on this deserved recognition.”