Leicester School Marks Mental Health Awareness Week

Pupils at a Leicester primary school have been learning how to support their wellbeing and self-esteem ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week.

Elizabeth Woodville Primary School in Groby has been hosting special lessons and activities to mark the event using Discovery Education Health and Relationships – a digital programme which teaches children about healthy and happy relationships, and gives them the skills they need to look after their physical and mental health.

Organised by the Mental Health Foundation charity, Mental Health Awareness Week (9 to 15 May 2022) is an annual, nationwide event which encourages people to focus on achieving good mental health.  The theme of this year’s event is ‘Loneliness’, and it’s hoped that the campaign will shine a light on the mental health impact of the pandemic.

Year 5 pupils at Elizabeth Woodville Primary School began their Mental Health Awareness Week lessons by learning about the importance of self-image and self-respect. Using digital resources from Discovery Education, they explored how the way in which we see ourselves can affect our feelings and behaviour.


Inspired by this, the children took part in a lively discussion about the benefits of positive self-image and how this can improve their health and wellbeing. The children enjoyed debating and sharing their ideas. One of the pupils said, “It was good to hear what other people wanted to say and sometimes I changed my mind too!”


The class then produced some beautiful written work on the theme of self-esteem, in which they listed the things that they are good at and highlighted the achievements they are most proud of.


Helen Taylor, Year 5 teacher at Elizabeth Woodville Primary School said:


“Given the difficulties and challenges faced by children of all ages within the last two years, caring for their mental health has never been more important. At Elizabeth Woodville Primary School, we take our responsibility to promote and improve the mental health of our pupils very seriously. Discovery Education’s Health and Relationships programme has allowed us to teach the importance of a positive mentality, self-image and self-respect in a clear, interesting and age-appropriate way. Every lesson enables discussion and debate and the children learn from each other as much as from the teaching.”


Featuring a variety of engaging digital content including videos, activities and complete lesson plans, Discovery Education Health and Relationships helps children to learn about mental health and relationships in a safe and supportive environment. The resources, which support teachers to deliver the primary RSHE curriculum, are centred around child-led videos and animations to help pupils relate to the subject and encourage them to take part in discussions.


“Discovery Education is proud to support Elizabeth Woodville Primary School as they teach their pupils about the importance of good mental health” said Howard Lewis, Discovery Education Managing Director UK and International. “Providing pupils with engaging opportunities to learn about wellbeing is so important, and we are glad to offer teachers the materials to do so.”


For more information about Discovery Education’s digital resources and professional learning services, visit and stay connected with Discovery Education on social media through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.



College wins pioneering mental health award for the second time

Impington Village College, on the outskirts of Cambridge, has been awarded the Gold Status School Mental Health Award by the Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools for the second time. This is in recognition of its continuous commitment to outstanding mental health and wellbeing provision for students and staff.


The Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools aims to strengthen pupils’ mental health by supporting schools to make a positive change at all levels of the UK’s education system, improving students’ outcomes and life chances.


The College offers its students a wide range of mental health support and resources, including an in-house mentoring programme and online referral system, a family support worker, YMCA counselling and access to professionals trained in areas including mindfulness, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and adolescent mental health.


The College also places a strong emphasis on staff wellbeing and mental health. It offers flexible working patterns, one paid family day annually and the option to work from home, when not teaching, to its staff. In recognition of its successful policies, the College was chosen to be one of eight Flexible Working Ambassador Schools in the UK to share best practice about how other schools can use flexible working to support teachers’ mental health and wellbeing.


The Department for Education also chose the College to represent the East of England and North East London regions for the ‘System Leaders – Workload Reduction Toolkit Refresh’ project, which addresses workload issues in schools, such as feedback and marking. All of these initiatives create an environment where staff and students feel safe and supported, to enhance student learning.


Victoria Hearn, Principal, Impington Village College, explained:Maximising flexibility for our staff means that they are able to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Flexible working has helped us to improve staff morale, reduce absences and increase productivity. By retaining our talented teaching team, we are able to deliver a continuous, high standard of learning for our students.”


Alongside support, all students have the opportunity to take part in wide range of activities to improve their wellbeing and personal development, such as pottery, swimming and yoga, as part of their iCAS (Creativity, Activity and Service) activity. This programme encourages learning for pleasure, commitment and responsibility, and fosters a sense of accomplishment and enjoyment for students.


Hearn said: “I am incredibly proud of the positive, inclusive environment we have built at the College, where all of our students and teachers can feel safe, secure and looked after. Our community feel means that our students feel comfortable asking for additional support, and our teachers can identify when a students may need additional resources for their mental health or wellbeing. As an IB World School, we take a student-centred approach to learning and teaching, focused on developing students intellectually, emotionally, physically and socially; helping them to develop their confidence and resilience. I am delighted that we have been re-awarded Gold Status for the second time in recognition of the outstanding pastoral care and support that our students benefit from.” 


The award was established in 2017 by the Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools – part of Leeds Beckett University – and social enterprise Minds Ahead.


Doctor Steve Burton, Interim Dean of Leeds Beckett’s Carnegie School of Education, said: “Achieving this award is not just recognition of a whole-college approach to mental health, it’s a recognition of the college’s commitment to improving the life chances of children and engaging with the wider community including staff and parents/carers.


“We’re truly proud to have worked with Impington Village College in this vital work and look forward to further collaboration.”


Dean Johnstone, founder and CEO of Minds Ahead said: “This award shines a light on the excellent work schools are doing to promote mental health for their community of children and adults. It is thrilling and humbling to learn about Impington Village College and the many other schools engaged in the quality award process. I’d like to offer my congratulations on this deserved recognition.”


Launch of askOLA by Education Taskforce


Combines academic ‘catch up’ and mental wellbeing  

Schools choosing additional catch-up programmes  

 Pupil-led support alongside tutoring 


Today (March 3rd) award-winning EdTech provider GLUU has spearheaded a taskforce of leading education partners to launch askOLA. The pioneering programme allows pupil-led learning with access to wellbeing support and saves teachers time by reducing their workload. 


askOLA is an on-demand, out-of-school learning and wellbeing support system.  The intention is for the system to support the whole student, both academically and emotionally; addressing their readiness to learn.   


askOLA is being launched in the run up to 2022 exams and vocational qualifications with schools able to choose how they spend ‘catch-up’ funding and amid wider concerns about mental health being expressed by the Children’s Commissioner and other leading education figures. 


The pandemic has also accelerated the digitisation of schools and a ‘hybrid’ approach to education with classroom learning backed up with remote provision. askOLA is a great example of a new online platform that provides academic and wellbeing support which is student-led and can be used outside of school hours.   

Students receive online academic support from vetted Online Learning Assistants (OLAs) and are signposted to the digital mental health and emotional wellbeing service provided by Kooth if they are experiencing difficulties – including direct access to counselling services or pre-moderated self-help content, if needed.  

askOLA adds capacity to the education system by allowing young people the opportunity to access pastoral and learning support outside of school in the same way that they can approach a teaching assistant if they were in a classroom. That way, children have access to support whenever it is needed, and teachers can rest assured that their pupils are being well supported outside of school, reducing workload.  


askOLA is currently being piloted at The Shireland Collegiate Academy Trust in the West Midlands after launching there in February with around 2,500 pupils currently registered to use askOLA.  Christine Major CEO of GLUU said: 

        Christine Major CEO of GLUU said: 

       “Everyone at GLUU is so excited to launch askOLA.  We know that the pandemic has created huge amounts of               upheaval for children, both in terms of their educational progress and their wellbeing and we wanted to design             something that could help address both those problems.  

           We know that children and teachers can benefit from what askOLA has to offer but we also hope to bring some             peace of mind to parents; with the help of an OLA, they can rest assured that their children have extra           professional support to underpin their learning recovery activity, reducing pressure at home.” 


 Sir Mark Grundy, CEO of Shireland Collegiate Academy Trust said: 


“We are delighted at Shireland to be the pilot Trust for askOLA. It’s been wonderful to see how helpful it is for pupils to have amazing online support at their fingertips outside of school. The combination of wellbeing advice and tutoring is so important as we help young people recover from the pandemic.”   


Sam Palombella, Director of Government Services, Kooth said: 


“As with us all, the lives of young people have been significantly disrupted during the pandemic, this has had an impact on both mental health and wellbeing. By signposting students to Kooth, this taskforce is ensuring that students have a safe, confidential, and welcoming place to access non-judgemental mental health support. One that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and easily accessed via a click of a button on a smartphone, laptop or tablet.” 


Chris Rothwell, Director of Education, Microsoft


EdTech has such an important role to play in the classroom – and at home, that’s why at Microsoft we want to see programmes like askOLA succeed because this pioneering programme is another example of how online support can give all-round benefit to young people.”  


Tej Samani Founder Performance Learning said


“We are proud to be part of a task force helping young people with online support and askOLA is a programme that helps with both learning and mental health advice. It’s an extra tool for pupils, teachers and parents to use and hopefully shows how EdTech can be so beneficial alongside classroom teaching. 


More information about the pilot: 


The pilot of askOLA began at Shireland Collegiate Academy on the 14th of February and around 500 students are taking part. Feedback has been very positive with students finding the online platform easy to use and helpful – a selection of pupil comments so far includes:  


“I think it’s going to help a lot. Sometimes in lessons I don’t really get the questions and so I can use askOLA….they don’t just give me like the answer straight away but they lead me towards the answer. So they’re not just telling me [information], I’m actually learning something” – Kayleigh, 12 years old 


“It’s really helpful because…they’ve shown you how to work it out. That’s great”- Jasmine, 12 years old 


Staff have also found askOLA’s new catch up and wellbeing support helpful 


“The service has been well received by pupils and staff. During the launch assemblies our students were clearly enthused – they couldn’t wait to get started… especially outside of school hours and in homework club”. Louise O’Gorman, teacher at Shireland Collegiate Academy Trust 




*Nearly four in five schools rated mental health as having the biggest impact on their organisation in the last year

*Almost three quarters (73%) of school leaders expect mental health and wellbeing to continue to be one of the biggest challenges over the next five years

*Zurich Municipal report reveals the biggest challenges facing public and voluntary sector organisations and their future concerns

*The insurer is currently working with Fika, a mental fitness learning and skills development partner, to address mental health in education


Nearly four in five school leaders say mental health and wellbeing was the biggest challenge for their organisation in the last year, according to a new report, which highlights the scale of the mental health crisis facing schools.   


The study by specialist insurer, Zurich Municipal and YouGov, revealed that for 78% of senior decision makers in primary and secondary schools, mental health and wellbeing had a “very big” or “substantial impact” on their organisation in the last 12 months – the highest out of seven challenges facing the sector. This was markedly higher than the average of 60% when looking at all public and third sector organisations surveyed.


The research went on to reveal future drivers of change and concerns, and predicts mental health will continue to have a major impact in schools. Nearly three quarters (73%) of school leaders expect mental health and wellbeing to continue to be one of the main challenges over the next five years – ranking second out of seven factors. However, it is issues related to funding and government policy that will become the primary worry in the future, with 85% of school leaders believing this will impact them the most.


In its study – The Future of the public and voluntary sectors – Zurich Municipal explored the general sentiment about the future of the public and voluntary sectors; views on current and future drivers of change and their relative impact; and future challenges and opportunities.  


Across all respondents, the study found the impact of mental health and wellbeing was most keenly felt in schools, followed by further and higher education establishments (71%) and charities (53%).  But while mental health and wellbeing had the greatest impact, primary and secondary school leaders also cited funding and government policy and the changing nature of work as having had a significant bearing on them in the last year – 71% and 63%.


Zurich’s findings come as a recent report by the charity, Education Support, found 77% of school staff are stressed (rising to 84% of senior leaders) and that over a third (38%) of education staff had experienced a mental health issue in the past academic year. 


Alix Bedford, Risk Proposition Manager, Zurich Municipal comments: “Working in the school environment has always been high pressured, but for nearly two years now, education staff have experienced an ongoing situation of unpredictability and stress. It is understandable that this would have a huge impact on mental health and wellbeing.  There are also concerns over the adverse impact of the pandemic on pupils, adding to the other issues already affecting young people’s mental health.


“Schools have a duty of care for the mental health and wellbeing of their staff and students. Awareness and understanding of the scope of this issue is rapidly evolving, but the policies, strategies and actions needed to respond must evolve rapidly too. If left unchecked, this risk could dwarf some others.”


Zurich Municipal is currently working with Fika, a mental fitness learning and skills development partner, to address mental health in education and offer training.  The three-month pilot, running until March, is part of Zurich’s aim to help schools protect their people as well as their property.   


Dr Amanda McNamee, Senior Mental Fitness Scientist at Fika said: “The state of declining mental health in education presents a risk in academic performance and stress to learners and burnout amongst staff. Current approaches pose a significant risk by reacting to declining mental health instead of preventing it. Fika has set out to mitigate the risk of decline and improve performance through a formal, proactive education-for-all solution and online mental fitness training tool.”


Fig 1. Issues that have had a big or significant impact schools in the last 12 months


Challenge Primary / Secondary Education Average across public and third sector
Mental health and wellbeing 78% 60%
Funding and fiscal policy 71% 67%
The changing nature of work e.g. hybrid working and workforce challenges 63% 68%
Changing community expectations and needs 62% 57%
Digital, data and automation 50% 52%
Changing organisational structures 39% 40%
Adapting to climate change 10% 18%



Fig.2 Issues that are predicted to have a big or significant impact schools  in the next five years


Challenge Primary / Secondary Education Across pubic and third sector
Funding and fiscal policy 85% 78%
Mental health and wellbeing 73% 57%
Changing community expectations and needs 58% 63%
Digital, data and automation 48% 56%
Changing organisational structures 44% 43%
 The changing nature of work (e.g. hybrid working and workforce challenges) 33% 55%
Adapting to climate change 21% 34%

Educational Facilities Optimised for Student Wellbeing, Performance and Sustainability

The concept of Smart buildings is being driven by a need for buildings to reduce carbon, reduce costs, and improve occupants’ environment, therefore allowing them to be more productive, prioritising their health and wellbeing. amBX have written a whitepaper on Smart buildings, and how we can expect to see more of them in the future, as our SmartCore technology enables smart buildings with an interoperable control platform. One of the key features is smart lighting control and monitoring, in particular circadian lighting/human-centric lighting.


Research published by Vodafone shows that currently, in the UK and EU, buildings are responsible for 36% of overall carbon emissions. There is much that can be done to improve this. Many believe it starts with schools; upgrading and retrofitting, involving students, and educating them about environmentally friendly solutions and how they can have a positive impact now and in the future. Added to the fact that school buildings are rapidly ageing and becoming increasingly inefficient, leading to unnecessary carbon emissions and high utility bills.


The Let’s Go Zero campaign states that 60% of the energy used by schools is wasted out-of-hours, and schools in England alone spend £600m per year on energy – the second-largest budget item after staff salaries. By installing Smart Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems that coordinate through the exchange of data to optimise each function’s efficiency also help create smarter buildings. Motion sensors also prevent wasteful cooling, heating and lighting of empty or low utilised spaces. In addition, predictive maintenance through smart technology can eliminate the wasteful replacement and breakdown of a building’s assets.


Smart IoT sensors that monitor electricity, gas and water can help Facility Managers identify areas where wastage occurs, and simple changes can be made, which amount to big savings. Combining these sensors with AI and machine learning, presents an opportunity for the building to begin to make these changes and decisions by itself, autonomously saving energy and water. 


Therefore, if schools are adopting new smart HVAC systems, it makes sense to also investigate the lighting of the schools. If there is a need to be smarter to reduce costs and emissions, then surely lighting that also benefits students’ health should be considered. In schools, the results of recent research into the effects of applying circadian lighting capabilities and principles show a marked difference in how this type of lighting can deliver compared to conventional lighting set-ups. 


Understanding the impact of light on human behaviour has advanced rapidly. It is now possible to use circadian lighting principles easily and cost-effectively. In human beings’ evolution, we have been exposed to artificial light for an extremely short amount of time. However, many of us now spend most of our day under artificial light and until very recently, this lighting has failed to reproduce the light experience for which we are “programmed”. 


As well as using lighting to help synchronise the human circadian cycle, it has been found that levels of illuminance are key to cognitive performance. A 2011 study in the Netherlands found that increasing illuminance levels in schools at certain times of day and changing the colour temperature of the lights indicated a positive influence on pupils’ concentration. Researchers found students were more alert and scored higher on their tests when they were in a classroom with 6500K lighting.


A further study conducted by Kazan State University in 2015 demonstrated the influence of different lighting types on visual performance. For example, there was a 20% improvement in the performance of the tasks speed during tests where the colour temperature was 5800K in comparison to fluorescent lighting. The number of errors also reduced hugely.


SmartCore technology from amBX helps to improve occupant health and wellbeing as it follows the Circadian rhythm, maintaining natural body clocks, by ensuring we receive the right amount, quality, colour, and intensity of light at the right times of the day. The Education sector is one of many currently adopting and embracing smart technology to achieve this and create an environment that allows students to thrive.


Bagheri and Hagighi Movahed predicts the global adoption rate of IoE (Internet of Everything) in education will rise from less than 5% in 2013 to 32% by 2022. Critical decisions about the carbon footprint of the built environment must be made if we are to achieve Government net zero carbon targets, and smart technology has a huge role to play in this.