Independent schools have long been the bastion of both traditional values and high standards, whilst providing high-quality pastoral care and a broad and balanced curriculum.
Maintaining each of these features in the ever-changing modern world is proving increasingly difficult and these changes are nowhere more apparent than when we come to the mental health and wellbeing of students and staff; a topic which has never been more in the spotlight with recent NHS research (NHS Digital, Nov 2018) showing that one in eight (12.8%) of those aged five to 19 now have a diagnosable mental disorder.
High-quality education is about producing happy, healthy, productive young adults who can make a positive contribution to society. This is sometimes forgotten in the context of exam results. If we don’t equip young people with the skills and coping strategies they need for life – both social and emotional – a life can be ruined, no matter the level of academic success.
What’s more, academic performance and wellbeing are inextricably intertwined. We could provide a student with the best teacher in the world, superb resources and their favourite topic, but if they’re struggling with their mental health and their mind is elsewhere, their learning will be significantly affected.
Yet for many schools a greater knowledge, understanding and focus on mental health and wellbeing is something which needs to be prioritised if we are to truly provide the first-class pastoral care for which the independent sector is renowned.
Brightcore Consultancy’s lead consultant and trainer, Oliver Welsby, spends the majority of his time supporting schools in doing just that – providing training and consultancy support to enable senior leaders and staff to prioritise their own mental health and wellbeing, as well as that of their pupils and colleagues.
Known for his dynamic, authentic and non-judgemental approach, and with extensive experience as both a DSL and Designated Senior Lead for Mental Health (DSL-MH), Welsby leads Brightcore in providing a range of highly commended training services to the independent sector ranging from whole-staff and governor mental health awareness training and mental health first aid training to bespoke consultancy support for senior leaders and DSL-MH training.
Welsby says about the key to an effective whole-school approach: “Appointing a designated senior lead for mental health is a great start as there needs to be someone influential who can coordinate a whole-school approach. However, the most important element of any successful whole-school approach is training; it needs to be effective, engaging and give staff and senior leaders the confidence and skills to make a difference in promoting their own wellbeing, and that of their pupils.
“Prioritising staff wellbeing is also just as important. It’s imperative we understand the stresses of working in education and ensure teachers don’t appear hypocritical when educating students about how to deal with stress.”
Whilst any successful approach needs to be directed by the senior leadership, the bottom line is that tackling this issue needs all staff to be involved.
Welsby says: “At Brightcore we believe that if we are truly going to make a difference then training and support needs to not only be of a very high quality but also as available and affordable as possible. That is why we provide a free mental health audit tool on our website as a starting point for all schools and we also use sponsorship to be able to offer subsidised on-site mental health first aid training to all schools.
“We work closely with school leadership teams providing flexible and bespoke support, practical evidence-based strategies and cost-effective training.”
Independent school testimonials
“Oliver Welsby was a truly excellent trainer. He was clear, enthusiastic, knowledgeable and very approachable. His experience, advice and passion for the subject was inspiring.” Nicki Rhodes, head of upper school, Finton House School
“Brightcore Consultancy’s training was outstanding and highly recommended for anyone responsible for, or involved in, the pastoral care of pupils.” Alison Grant, deputy headteacher, King’s Bruton School
“Oliver is a superb communicator. Engaging and interesting. I cannot recommend his training any more highly!” Sam Payne, deputy head and DSL-MH, James Allen’s Girls’ School
“Oliver’s knowledge of mental health and wellbeing is amazing. He is passionate about the topic but also adds a level of honesty and understanding about the pressures in schools today.” Lisa O’Reilly SENCO and DSL-MH, Homefield Preparatory School
If you are interested in exploring any of the above mental health and wellbeing training courses or in-school consultancy support, visit Brightcore Consultancy’s website or get in touch via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org