Healthy MindED mental health commission holds first conference

Representatives from schools across the North East gathered yesterday at Durham County Cricket Club to hear from experts and share good practice in the field of pupil mental health.

The conference was opened with a keynote from Professor Dame Sue Bailey, chair of the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition (CYPMHC) and co-chair of SCHOOLS NorthEast’s Healthy MindED commission into pupils’ mental health.

Professor Bailey gave delegates an overview of the national policy landscape for children and young people’s mental health. She noted that all three of the major political parties have recognised the importance of prioritising the mental health of children and young people and made encouraging pledges in their manifestos.

Now that the election is over, the Coalition – including SCHOOLS NorthEast – will be calling on the Prime Minister to take up a Prime Minister’s Children and Young People’s Mental Health Challenge, modelled on the successful Dementia Challenge taken up by David Cameron.

Professor Bailey was followed by Professor Miranda Wolpert MBE from the Child Outcomes Research Consortium (CORC) who shared the latest findings in relation to mental health needs in schools and evidence of what works. Professor Wolpert highlighted what we don’t know as well as what we do no know and suggested ways that schools can be part of the development of practice based evidence.

Dr Lynne Howey from the Northern England Clinical Networks (NHS) then helped delegates understand how CAMHS works and the referral process, giving advice to schools on how to make effective referrals.

The conference then broke into parallel sessions on Whole School Approaches for primary and secondary school delegates. Susan McBeth from Jarrow Cross Primary School in South Tyneside, Chris Wain from Pallister Park Primary School in Middlesbrough and Steve Wilkinson and Narinder Sandhu from Monkwearmouth Academy in Sunderland outlined their Whole School Approaches to mental health and talked delegates through how they went about designing and implementing them. Secondary delegates were also pointed towards some useful resources by Teresa Day of the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust.

After lunch, school delegates were joined by NHS and local authority colleagues for a round table discussion on Local Transformation Plans (LTPs) for children and young people’s mental health. Every local area has an LTP which is developed by partners from across the NHS, public health, social care, youth justice and education sectors, covering everything from prevention to support for existing mental health problems. Schools discussed the LTP for their area with representatives from each of the nine LTP teams in our region.

The day ended with a series of practical workshop sessions:

  • Wendy Minhinnett and Tracy Bonarius from the Rollercoaster Parent/Carer Support Group gave a parent’s perspective on supporting children with emotional and mental health difficulties. They also shared some examples of good practice from schools.
  • Mike Armiger, an educational consultant and former head teacher, shared his expertise of working with looked after children and how to meet their mental health needs. Mike also advised schools on how they can be more trauma-aware.
  • Christine Sketchley, an educational psychologist at Hartlepool Borough Council, talked delegates through a project that she is engaged in to better manage the transition from primary to secondary school. Key to this model is collaboration with parents and an understanding of social context.
  • Kate Chisholm, Head Teacher at Skerne Park Academy in Darlington shared her experience of running an emotionally intelligent school and gave practical advice to delegates to stay in love with teaching. Kate also outlined how Ofsted can be reframed in a more positive light.
  • Louise Brennand and Carolyn Ellis from the Emotional Health and Wellbeing Team at Percy Hedley School in Newcastle outlined their school’s approach to support SEND pupils with their mental health needs and helped delegates understand how they might transfer elements of this model to their own unique school contexts.
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