A DfE quality-approved approach
Preya Dhanecha was a recent participant on our DfE quality-approved course for designated senior mental health leads. Here, the Head of Safeguarding, Wellbeing and PSHE for Global Academy lifts the lid on her experience. From reservations and anxieties to how chasing a 'pat on the back from Ofsted' brought a comforting realisation, read her account below.
“We can’t teach you to be emotionally intelligent. You’re either empathetic and understanding by nature, or you aren’t. Mental health policies are blanket documents; they’re not helpful in dealing with individual, complex issues. We’re a school, not a therapeutic setting, our staff are trained to teach academic and creative subjects, not provide mental health advice. We aren’t qualified for this. What if I say the wrong thing and all of a sudden I’m responsible for a kid hurting themselves?”
"Mental health policies are not helpful in dealing with individual, complex issues."
A step-by-step audit and realistic action plan
These are just some of the comments that reflect the resistance (or, more accurately put, the reservations and anxieties) of staff working in schools when being told that we have a duty of care to promote the mental health of students. And let’s be honest here, they don’t completely lack validity. How many of us are qualified counsellors, psychologists or therapists? I’d hazard a guess, not many.
Even as someone who is a safeguarding and wellbeing lead in my current role, I “chose” to complete Thrive’s DfE assured senior mental health lead course so I could check a box on my performance management target and with any luck, come away with a few “golden nugget” ideas that I could implement to get the highly sought after, pat on the back, from Ofsted.
What I came away with though, was so much more. The course provided an excellent scientific knowledge base on which practical advice was provided on how to become a more mentally healthy school.
Strategically, the course guides candidates through step-by-step completion of a mental health audit which seamlessly informs a manageable and realistic action plan. The course is whole-school focussed, so yes, staff, you are all included in this too!
"How many of us are qualified counsellors, psychologists or therapists? I’d hazard a guess, not many."
Mental health permeating the school community
It was a fantastic opportunity to connect with our colleagues in education across the country to share experiences (and frustrations!) while ideas flowed freely across our WiFi connections – as long as they didn’t glitch!
Ultimately, it was comforting to be reminded, that as teachers, heads of years or in my case, head of safeguarding, wellbeing and PSHE, having mental health provision in school does not come with the unrealistic expectation of all staff taking on the role of stand-in psychologists. (We are already acting parents, social workers and siblings!)
Rather, it was an education on how to raise awareness among staff, provide a user-friendly tool kit and ensure that mental health awareness is a thread that seamlessly permeates the fabric of the school community.
I would highly recommend this course to anyone who either feels lost within the realm of mental health or would like to take the provision and culture of their organisation to the next level. It was structured and delivered incredibly well with support from the presenters and colleagues consistent throughout.
Over to you
The DfE remains committed to offering senior mental health lead training to all eligible state-funded schools and colleges by 2025. Keen to support the mental wellbeing of each young person in your setting? Don't miss out on funding! Click here to book onto Thrive's DfE quality-approved course.
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