Positive and supportive school ethos

Creating a positive and supportive school ethos is a key element of a whole-school approach to mental health and wellbeing.

It is critical to the way staff feel about what they do and how they interact with each other and their pupils. It is also vital for children – to give them a sense of safety and belonging as well as the tools they need to develop and thrive.

What is a mentally healthy school?

A mentally healthy school:

  • Is safe, respectful, welcoming, non-judgemental and secure.
  • Recognises, promotes and celebrates diversity and values everyone equally.
  • Promotes and supports mental health and wellbeing through strategy, policies and procedures which are implemented effectively.
  • Has active child, staff and parent/carer involvement in governance and decision-making.
  • Has a curriculum, together with day-to-day interactions, that reflect and build strong social and emotional skills and knowledge.
  • Has effective layers of early intervention support such as pastoral care, counselling, [link to counselling] peer support and nurture groups
  • Has a strategy for promoting and making the most of protective factors that enhance children’s mental health in schools such as developing a sense of school belonging in children, parents and carers; supporting families to promote children’s wellbeing; and making sure that staff build positive and warm relationships with children.
  • Takes action to prevent or swiftly address school-based risk factors which can undermine children’s mental health (e.g. bullying, academic stress).
  • Works with local partners to help families reduce family-based risk factors which can undermine children’s mental health.
  • Identifies and supports children who need extra help as early as possible.
  • Supports the professional development of school staff about mental health awareness.
  • Supports the mental health and wellbeing of all staff.
  • Promotes respectful communication between everyone.
  • Encourages and values open dialogue, participation and contribution by all.

Role of the head teacher

The head teacher will drive the ethos of the school and will be vital to the success of a whole-school approach to mental health. They will have a key role to play – inspiring, championing and leading [link to leadership and improvement] the school in a way that promotes the mental health of everyone and prevents poor mental health. It will be important for head teachers to:

  • Look after their own mental health and wellbeing. This may mean making sure they have someone to talk to, outside of school, about their role, challenges and their own mental health and wellbeing.
  • Demonstrate good social and emotional self-awareness, knowledge and skills themselves.
  • Model the importance of work-life balance, instilling this culture across the staff team.
  • Making sure that school/workplace wellbeing is a topic that everyone feels comfortable addressing, especially when staff and pupils are under pressure.
  • Review staff wellbeing.
  • Help staff develop clarity on their roles and responsibilities making sure that supportive management systems are in place.
  • Include, as part of workplace wellbeing, social occasions and other opportunities for colleagues to develop relationships and build a sense of belonging to the team and the school.

Find out more

Resources

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Promoting staff mental health and wellbeing

Video (23 mins) on promoting staff mental health and wellbeing.

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How governors can help head teacher wellbeing – guidance.

This document is one of the outcomes of a DTI funded project ‘Working Together To Support...

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  • Headteacher Hub

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Implementing a whole-school approach

Implementing a whole-school approach

A webinar (42 mins) about the eight core strands of a whole school approach to mental health and...

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Guide: A mental health model for schools

Guide: A mental health model for schools

A mental health model for schools written by Charlotte Lowe and based on her experiences of...

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News article on being a headteacher

News article on being a headteacher

A newspaper article on the experience of being a head teacher and top tips for survival.

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  • The Guardian

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Five ways to wellbeing

Five ways to wellbeing

A webinar (28 mins) about an evidence-based approach to approach mental wellbeing which can be...

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A whole-school framework

A whole-school framework

A whole-school framework for emotional wellbeing and mental health: a self-assessment and...

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News article: meditation exercises for teachers

News article: meditation exercises for teachers

A newspaper article providing short mindfulness exercises for school staff.

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  • The Guardian

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