Discovery Multi Academy Trust – comprised of Oakwood Primary Academy, Weston Mill Community Primary Academy, Beechwood Primary Academy and the Edison Centre – in Plymouth, Devon, is celebrating being named the first educational group in the UK to win a ‘Mentally Healthy Organisation Award’ for its commitment to pupil and staff mental health and wellbeing. The award was presented by not-for-profit The Centre for Child Mental Health and Trauma Informed Schools UK, providers of trauma and mental health training for teachers and education staff across the country.
Formed in 2016, the Trust provides education for nearly 1100 children aged from 3-11 across the Plymouth area. Additionally, the Trust has developed the Edison Centre which supports children with their social, emotional and mental health. All of the Trust’s academies have a higher than national percentage of children who are eligible for free school meals and children with special educational needs. At Weston Mill Community Primary Academy, over 41% of children are eligible for free school meals – significantly above the national average of 13.6%. All three schools in the Trust received ‘Good’ ratings by Ofsted in 2019.
Discovery Multi Academy Trust’s change of methodology in supporting its children and families has resulted in significant improvements in behaviour, academic attainment and the wellbeing of both staff and pupils across the three schools. In order to address their specific needs, Discovery Multi Academy Trust implemented a relational approach to support behaviour in order to develop a whole school cultural change to boost feelings of belonging and ensure psychological and physical safety for all. All staff members are trained in empathic modes of interaction to help support the strategy.
Environments across the schools have been carefully developed to be calm, inviting and safe, with designated places for pupils to go if they are feeling lonely, anxious or need an emotionally available adult. Outdoor spaces and animal therapy are also used across the Trust as ways to promote alternative methods of learning and tackling difficult feelings.
Director of Education and Training at CCMH and Co-Director of TIS UK, Dr Margot Sunderland, said the Trust had met the key ‘Mentally Healthy Organisation’ criteria evidencing key interventions to support the very best staff–pupil relationships known to markedly improve learning and academic attainment.
“You can really feel the sense of emotional well being as you walk around the school and the calm caring yet playful relationships that adults engage in at all levels promotes emotional regulation across the whole school culture,” says Suzie Franklin, Education Consultant and TIS UK Awards Assessor. “The school’s ethos is focused around learning as the foundation for life, rather than league tables or exam results. Underpinning this is a comprehensive vision for students’ social, moral and cultural development. “There is Relationship Policy (for staff to ensure that interactions with pupils are reflective regulating and warm) and the school really understands the evidence-based role that relationships play in shaping daily experiences.
Commenting on the Mentally Healthy Organisation Award, Alison Nettleship, Leader of the Trust, said: “We are absolutely delighted to receive a Mentally Healthy Organisation Award for our ongoing care for the emotional wellbeing of our Trust. The approach has transformed our culture and is a result of the hard work of our dedicated team. As a result we have seen an improvement in the well-being of staff and children and this has been a key strategy for facilitating school improvement. As a Trust we believe in the importance of recognising the emotional health of our school communities and we look forward to this ongoing development in the future. Receiving this award continues to validate our approach and we are extremely proud to be recognised as a Mentally Healthy Organisation.”
Schools can apply for a Mentally Healthy School Award or a Trauma and Mental Health Informed School Award by demonstrating that they have met a range of mental health and wellbeing-focused criteria. The Implementation Checklist centres around four key values which underpin mentally-healthy relationships between school staff and pupils: protect, relate, regulate, reflect – and schools are marked on evidence, awareness, emerging practice and embedded practice in a range of measures under each section. The overall score determines whether the school is deemed ‘Mentally Healthy’. To apply for a Mentally Healthy School Award or a Trauma and Mental Health Informed School Award, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the awards, and how to apply, go to https://traumainformedschools.co.uk/awards.
Director of Education and Training, Dr Margot Sunderland, is a child psychologist, psychotherapist, neuroscience expert and highly acclaimed author of more than 20 books in the field of child mental health.
For further information on stress, child mental health and training please call 020 7354 2913 or visit: https://www.childmentalhealthcentre.org.