Grange Park Primary School

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Frankie Cowan, Head Teacher:

We’ve seen a significant reduction in the number of children referred to CAMHS and other services.

When I took over Grange Park Primary School, during the pandemic, the school was battling the same mental health challenges that so many of our schools are now facing. With 20 years of experience in education in areas of high need (including five years of specialist education) I felt prepared for the challenge, but it was still clearly going to be a long-term project.

Grange Park is a one form entry primary school set in the centre of Sunderland. The school population is varied and has a range of needs. Like the majority of mainstream schools now, levels of SEND, anxiety and mental health needs are at an all-time high. Knowing this, I wanted to ensure that the provision provided in our school was going to provide a long term, quality solution so that the school community could thrive with as little external agency intervention, unless absolutely necessary.

I engaged with Blue to a implement a whole school approach that could deliver a wholly restorative approach to our children’s wellbeing.

Step One for me was to provide training for the entire workforce in mental health and wellbeing via Blue. I firmly believed that in order to deliver the best support for the children, we as a team of adults needed to know more about mental health. Specifically, we needed to be able to identify mental health issues early, and know how to intervene effectively.

Once we’d had the benefit of this training, we wrote a new whole school policy around mental health. We then invested in the myHappymind programme where our students engaged with a wonderful spiral curriculum that complimented the training we’d had from Blue.

Children across school can share that they understand how their brain works; knowing how the fight or flight response impacts them and feel reassured that the majority of what they are experiencing is common and manageable.

The results of this two-pronged approach have been significant. Our school has become an example of what you can achieve when you invest in mental health provision. I now host regular mental health forums for colleagues who are facing the same challenges in their own schools. We’ve seen a significant reduction in the number of children referred to CAMHS and other services. We’ve also seen a number of parents come to the gates and ask for support with their own mental health as the children have grown more skilled at communicating their feelings.

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A whole-school approach to mental health and wellbeing is based on a foundation of staff training. If the adults in school don’t feel confident and skilled in mental health, how can we expect them to model that to the children?

Blue Mental Health for Schools gives adults the toolkit to identify possible mental health issues and intervene early. In our course, we provide adults with the theory behind cognitive behavioural therapy in a way that is accessible, interactive and engaging. We then offer a wide range of practical tips and guidance on how to apply that knowledge in a school setting.

Finally we lay out the 8 pillars of a whole-school approach and how to implement them in your school.

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