Head teacher or cluster lead
The head teacher bears the ultimate responsibility for the learning, achievement and wellbeing of children in the school, and for meeting the expectations of parents and carers, governors (or the executive team) and central and local government.
Active and effective leadership promoting mental health and wellbeing involves the head teacher in a number of ways.
What head teachers can do
- Collaborating with governors and SLT (senior leadership team) to create a vision for wellbeing; inspiring and driving a culture of wanting to do the best for children and families and reinforcing key messages on:
- The importance of helping children flourish, overcome barriers to learning and achievement and prevent mental health problems occurring. See our introduction to risks and protective factors and our section on mental health needs and strategies.
- The many ways in which all school staff can promote children’s mental health and wellbeing through formal teaching strategies and informal, light-touch, day-to-day interactions.
- How schools play an important role in the early identification and support of children and families in need – building on strengths and preventing damaging, and costly, deterioration in children’s mental health and wellbeing.
- Motivating and encouraging the SLT and the whole school to take ownership of the promotion and support of children’s and staff’s mental health and wellbeing.
- Communicating the school’s vision, core messages and goals through informal and formal interactions with staff, children and parents/carers.
- Facilitating and driving the school improvement plan.
- Fostering open and trusting relationships and a sense of belonging to create a warm, supportive and responsive school climate and ethos (e.g. through head teacher open door policies, through school gate meet and greets, noticing and celebrating staff and pupil successes).
- Modelling best practice through use of positive, inclusive and respectful language and behaviour in schools and classrooms.
- Orchestrating and driving whole-school integrated activities on wellbeing, working with the SLT to set clear priorities for improvement and having in place appropriate strategies, systems and policies.
- Evaluating how effectively the school supports induction, ongoing training and development of staff around child wellbeing so that all staff feel equipped to contribute and build a culture of reflective practice and continuous improvement.
- Looking after their own health and being alert and sensitive to staff mental health and wellbeing – modelling the importance of a work-life balance, reinforcing the value of good staff mental health, emotional openness and healthy working practices.
- Although leadership is important, a school leader cannot mobilise change alone. Effective implementation of the school’s vision and strategic aim requires the support, commitment, reinforcement and ‘eyes and ears’ of all senior leaders, together with governors, school staff and effective engagement with parents/carers and children.
- Working closely with mental health professionals and external services to support children in greatest need.