It’s undeniable that today’s young people are facing a time of turbulence and uncertainty, particularly following the disruption caused by COVID-19. As well as dealing with the aftermath of isolating lockdowns, young people are increasingly exposed to anxiety-inducing news stories and household pressures. In fact, the Sutton Trust recently flagged the cost of living crisis as a major driver of mental health issues among young people. With 96% of students stating that their mental health impacts their schoolwork, it’s clear that governors need to step up and help educators nurture resilience in schools.
How can governors support mental health in schools?
One of the first steps governors can take in supporting young people’s wellbeing is to ask school leaders whether they’re enlisting help from mental health professionals. While school staff are frontline workers when it comes to supporting pupils’ mental health, they cannot do it alone. As well as providing training for staff members, schools should seek help from mental health specialists to ensure young people are fully supported.
One organisation offering such specialist support is Place2Be, a charity delivering mental health support in schools through one-to-one and group counselling sessions. Niki Cooper, Place2Be’s Clinical Director, says: “Having worked closely with school leaders, we’ve learned that schools tend to underestimate how much they’re already doing to promote good mental health.
“When a teacher checks in with a child who isn’t turning up to class and meets with their parents or carers, they’re not just addressing ‘poor attendance’ – they’re taking the first step to understanding what might be going on for that child. Now – as pupils and staff attempt to settle back into school life – it’s vital that educators and school leaders feel equipped, confident, and supported to address mental health issues in the classroom.”
Currently, Place2Be offers embedded mental health services in 450 primary and secondary schools across the UK, supporting a school community of around 250,000 children and young people. Following the COVID-19 lockdown, the charity has also made its Mental Health Champions – Foundations programme available free of charge to 50,000 teachers across the country to improve understanding of wellbeing in school.
When asked how governors can be proactive about mental health in schools, Niki explains: “By taking a whole-school approach to mental health, schools have the opportunity to build pupils’ resilience and equip them with the life skills to manage future challenges. In many cases, they can also identify and prevent potential mental health problems from becoming more severe and complex by offering well-evidenced early intervention services.
“Offering a mental health service in schools makes so much sense as educational institutions are where young people spend most of their time. In highlighting services such as ours, governors can ensure vulnerable pupils are not overlooked. With children’s mental health issues climbing as a result of the pandemic, schools must have access to highly skilled mental health professionals through organisations such as Place2Be.”
By working with school staff and mental health professionals, governors can play a vital role in counteracting some of the worst effects of the pandemic on young people’s mental health. To find out more about Place2Be, visit their website.
Looking to make a difference in young people’s lives? Volunteer as a governor
As you can see, governors have the potential to positively impact the lives of children in their local communities. To start your governance journey, register online today.