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“Because the school has such a positive and open minded approach to mental health, there is lots of opportunity to become a centre of excellence around student and staff wellbeing.”


Started offering training
February 2015

Staff trained so far
27


Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar School (BRGS) is a selective coeducational state school which is renowned for its high achieving exam results. A larger than average secondary school, BRGS has over 1,200 students on its roll, drawing from a wide catchment in the borough of Rossendale in the rural setting of the South Pennines.

What is also larger than average for a typical state secondary school is the proportion of staff trained as Youth MHFAiders.

BRGS’s Pastoral Manager, Siobhan Robinson, is responsible for the training. Since qualifying as a Youth MHFA instructor herself, Siobhan is able to deliver the course internally to her colleagues.

Siobhan has always been passionate about improving young people’s emotional wellbeing and mental health. On the school wide initiative, she comments: “The headteacher at BRGS is so supportive around the development of good pastoral care and this creates a more open dialogue around mental health and wellbeing. The staff and students feel able to have conversations about issues that relate to mental health and it’s not a taboo subject.”
 

Why we train our staff in Youth MHFA

Giving recognition to the idea that young people will thrive academically if they have good mental health, and the role that a school can play in this, headteacher Alan Porteous says:

“Our aim is for students to ‘enjoy and achieve’ whilst at school. To ensure that students do not have any barriers to their learning we need to support them holistically in providing top-quality pastoral care and this excellent course effectively raises awareness and understanding of mental health issues. To ensure that students do not have any barriers to their learning we need to support them holistically in providing top-quality pastoral care and this excellent course effectively raises awareness and understanding of mental health issues.”

“To ensure that students do not have any barriers to their learning we need to support them holistically in providing top-quality pastoral care and this excellent course effectively raises awareness and understanding of mental health issues."

Siobhan says: “Being able to recognise and help a young person with mental ill health is so important, and raising awareness around mental health issues will help to reduce the associated stigma.

“At BRGS we believe that teaching and support staff can play a really important role in supporting young people who may be experiencing mental health issues and by investing in some simple but effective training, we are giving our staff the tools they need to feel confident to open up that conversation and guide a person to appropriate help.

“The fact that we have Youth Mental Health First Aiders in our school is a really positive demonstration of our commitment to creating an environment where children’s emotional wellbeing is truly valued.”
 

Feedback

“I believe Youth MHFA has provided me with extra tools to be able to better understand and support young people - something so valuable in my line of work.”

100% of BRGS staff who evaluated the training ‘agreed strongly’ that the course met their needs, through developing their knowledge and skills in dealing with student mental  health issues.

One staff member commented: “I believe Youth MHFA has provided me with extra tools to be able to better understand and support young people – something so valuable in my line of work.”

Another colleague believed that it had changed their “outlook and perception of mental health and wellbeing in others” raising their confidence to deal with issues such as self-harm, depression and anxiety.


What the future holds

The work around mental health at BRGS is ongoing to continue to raise awareness and develop the support services in place for students. The team conducts regular surveys of students' mental health using a strengths and difficulties questionnaire (SDQ). 

Siobhan believes that because the school has such a positive and open minded approach to mental health that there is lots of opportunity to become a centre of excellence around student and staff wellbeing.

Siobhan says: “My vision is that we continue to develop all aspects of pastoral care, including training all staff in Youth MHFA and perhaps even engaging some of our sixth form students in a peer-to-peer training course.

“I am also keen to investigate different ways to build resilience within our school community because I think there are lots of really helpful strategies and tools to improve our sense of wellbeing and promote positive mental health.”