Catholic schools in the North East are prioritising the promotion of good pupil mental health in Children’s Mental Health Week after a report suggests anxiousness among pupils “worsened” during the 2021/22 academic year-despite a return to full-time in-person schooling after the pandemic.
The annual State of the Nation report, which has been published during Children’s Mental Health Week, suggests the recovery of children and young people’s wellbeing towards pre-pandemic levels has been “inconsistent”.
It found that “significant challenges” remained during the 2021/22 school year, adding that anxiousness among both primary and secondary-age pupils “appears to have increased” and is higher than in 2020/21.
The DfE report said: “While annual trends indicated that children and young people’s subjective happiness and life satisfaction appears to have recovered to pre-pandemic levels by 2022, some measures, such as anxiousness among primary and secondary-age pupils, and loneliness and mental health among older young people, may have worsened further.”
Bishop Chadwick Catholic Education Trust (BCCET) in the north east has put a keen focus on the mental health of children and adults, with 110 mental health first aiders amongst its staff.
During Children’s Mental Health Week, 6th-12th February 2023, the Trust is focusing on the theme Let’s Connect – one of the 5 Ways to Wellbeing (Give, Connect, Learn, Take Notice and Be Active).
The Trust, which covers East Durham, South Tyneside and Sunderland, has 110 trained mental health first aiders across its different sites.
Responding to the Dfe report, Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “Children and young people are facing a tsunami of pressures which affect their health and wellbeing.”
She added that ‘significant investment, targeted towards the most vulnerable in society, is needed.’
Louise Swailes, mental health co-ordinator at Bishop Chadwick Catholic Education Trust, said: “We all have mental health and it is equally as important as our physical health, as it impacts all areas of our lives including our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing.
“Here at BCCET, we have made a commitment to support the wellbeing of our staff and students through a whole Trust approach to embedding positive mental health across its culture and ethos.”
The Trust’s Sunderland-based schools have prioritised mental health support by working towards the Sunderland Mental Health Charter Mark. St Mary’s Catholic Primary School has achieved gold and St Aidan’s Catholic Academy was recently awarded the silver award. St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Jarrow and St Aidan’s Catholic Academy in Sunderland were both recently awarded a bronze Better Health at Work Award for their commitment to improving both physical and mental health within the school staff.
Louise Swailes outlined the extensive support provided.
“We now have 110 staff members trained through MHFA England as Mental Health First Aiders across the Trust,” she said.
“We have a very strong tiered mental health support system in our schools with students, teaching assistants, teachers and SLT trained in mental health support as well as external agencies delivering counselling sessions in school, working with small groups and whole classes as well as parents.”
Mental Health First Aiders are trained in spotting the signs of mental ill health, how to respond in an empathetic manner and where to signpost for appropriate support.
A Government spokesperson said that at least £2.3 billion a year has been given to mental health services, with the aim that 345,000 more children and young people should be able to access NHS-funded mental health support by 2024.
Pictures: The wellbeing champion team at St John Bosco Primary School in Sunderland with (inset) BCCET mental health co-ordinator Louise Swailes.