Ashwood Spencer Academy are proud to announce that in November 2020, we were awarded a Bronze Status in the Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools – School Mental Health Award.
This work was undertaken by the school Mental Health Lead in consultation with parents, children and school staff over the course of 2 challenging academic years for education. We aimed to evaluate our school against 8 competencies:
- Leadership and strategy
- Organisational structure and culture – staff
- Organisational structure and culture – pupils
- Support for staff
- Professional development and learning
- Support for pupils
- Working with parents and carers
- Working with external services
We endeavoured to think carefully about what we do as a school to relating to each competency, which also allowed us to reflect on how far we have come as a school.
Recognising that our school is on quite a journey and has seen a lot of change in its history (previously having the names Nightingale Infant and Nightingale Junior School, amalgamating to become Osmaston Primary School in 2014 and now becoming Ashwood Spencer in September 2018), we knew that consistency would be key in continuing with old approaches and embedding new approaches.
The report we submitted was coupled with training sessions and virtual calls with a Coach who verified our information. Following our final submission, they wrote a report:
Ashwood Spencer Academy has presented a detailed profile of evidence that demonstrates they are Embracing across all seven competencies of the School Mental Health Award and embedding in the final competency. The school has used the framework and content of the Award to good effect to develop their mental health and wellbeing strategies, structures and practices. The Framework has enabled the school to think more deeply about the mental health provision they have, the school was then able to home in on more specific areas to develop.
The Mental Health Lead acknowledges that the school has been on a journey to reach the point today and it has required a huge amount of sustained effort from the leadership. Previous instability in the school leadership and the embedding of a newly appointed governing body has meant that changes are still ongoing, but the school is now in a much more positive place. The school has worked hard to embed their DREAM ethos and raise aspirations and mental health has been a key driver for all the school has done.
The lead was keen to stress that it has been really important that the changes have been arrived at through discussion with the whole community and that there was a sense of empowerment and ‘doing with’ rather than being ‘done to’.
The culture for staff has shifted to giving them more of a say in how more vulnerable children within the school are supported. The leadership team recognise that they do not necessarily know the children best and it was important that staff are able to feed into support given to children, this has allowed the school a much more holistic approach to support. Equally the school has recognised that staff wellbeing is as important as the children’s wellbeing.
The lead spoke of all the small changes that have been made in the school that staff feel have made a big difference for their mental health. From their review it was clear the consistent recognition of the things staff do on a daily basis – through thankyous and positive comments – had shifted the culture and has had the biggest impact on staff wellbeing. The leadership is now consciously checking-in with all staff and build ‘big-relationships’ with all staff members, especially with the current situation throughout the week. In addition, the school has introduced a ‘Wellbeing Window’, staff breakfast on Wednesdays and try to accommodate flexible working and personal time where possible, all of which were extremely well received by staff.
The school having a counsellor has been an amazing resource for those children who are really struggling with mental health but, for whatever reason, are unable to access other services. The counsellor has also been able to feed into TAF meetings and has enabled much more effective support for children. The stability of the counsellor being in school has really raised the engagement and achievement of those who need and are accessing her support. At a more universal level the school talked about how effective the ‘Mindful Moments’ have been for both pupils and staff. It gives the children centre and calm and the atmosphere changes and prepares everyone for learning. The children are taught strategies and then are able to choose what they do in these moments and this not only calms them it teaches them self-awareness and regulating their own emotions.
The biggest change for parents has been around mindset to ensure that the relationship between school and parents was positive. The lead was keen to stress the importance of this relationship because sometimes supporting the child means supporting the parents too. This started with encouraging parents to celebrate children’s successes with the Dojo assemblies and inviting them in to share learning experiences. The reintroduction of the PTFA has also been really positive and the family support lead has worked hard to ensure that this is a representative group of parents and this has been a really positive experience for parents (empowering some of them to go on and get employment), giving them purpose and confidence. The engagement with events has been really positive and seen such positive feedback.
This has really increased trust between the school and parents. The parents are very open and engaged regarding mental health.
The principal has really bought into the importance of Mental health and has empowered those leading it to do what they feel is necessary. The Governing Body is relatively new but are really keen to support and have been on training. The chair is fully invested and is keen to support the school as much as possible.
The 5Es profile included in this report mainly reflects the work carried out within the school. There will be further opportunities for the school to outreach to other schools in the area in the future, as they continue to embed their practice, show further impact and grow in confidence in sharing their work around mental health and well-being. The school will continue to be receptive to the current climate and adapt as they need to. They will continue to embed the initiatives with a focus on children and families and measure the impact of these going forward.
The school lead and I concur that Ashwood Spencer Academy should be awarded the Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools School Mental Health Award at Bronze level.
After achieving the Bronze Status, we are clear in the direction that we need to take to continue ensuring that we are a mentally healthy school. We are proud of the progress that we have made, and believe that the health, safety and happiness of our school community – children and adults alike – is our fundamental aim at Ashwood Spencer.