To discuss the outcomes presented on 18 March 2021 with a question and answer session.
Cassie Buchanan, Southwark Headteachers representative made the following points in response to the pandemic and schools.
· The capacity to respond to the impact of the pandemic and mental health had been reduced.
· At primary school age, it was still important not to lose sight of those with medical and SEN (special educational needs).
· Expecting an increase of those that were NEET (not in education, employment or training).
· Need to ensure that mentoring and all the programmes on offer was communicated and accessible for all.
· Schools need to have the capacity to access what mental health services, support and plans were available to them; and the strategy across the board to be better informed and resourced to respond to mental health and wellbeing in a school setting.
· Need to increase the capacity to offer the free safeguard training for teachers.
· The training offer for teachers to be a mental health first aider was excellent and there was a call to encourage more to become a mental health first aider.
· Need to review school exclusion data and receive a report at a future meeting.
Councillor Jasmine Ali, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Education contributed to the discussion and the following points were noted.
· 6,200 laptops had been issued to Southwark children to support their learning during the lockdown(s).
· There was a new initiative called “Youth New Deal” to reach young people and positively contribute towards their mental health.
Link to the report positive future for young people fund commissioning plan: https://moderngov.southwark.gov.uk/mgIssueHistoryHome.aspx?IId=50026085&Opt=0
Yvonne Ely, Assistant Director of Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and Lee Souter, Education Lead for Wellbeing and Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education; Mental Health and Healthy Schools were also in attendance and in the absence of the Director of Education, Nina Dohel. The following points were noted.
· The primary school population since March 2021 had settled back in well and there had been no specific or significant signs of distress following their transition to return to school; some schools had reported their best attendance since March.
· There was a huge amount of work to respond to transition from rebuilding the social, confidence, language and communication skills for primary school children returning into a school setting to rebuilding the teacher’s resilience and their overall wellbeing.
· Primary school population were showing positive resilience in returning back to school.
· There were high levels of acute emotional, mental health and anxiety issues whereby secondary schools were doubling their counselling offer to respond to demand.
· There was an increase in reported safeguarding issues in secondary schools.
· One school had established a type of peer-to-peer network with the sixth formers supporting the younger children to help manage their mental health at school.
· To support teachers and their mental health and overall wellbeing they were sign-posted to the education support services as part of safe guarding updates.
· School initiatives like ‘coffee meets’ for lone working staff were set-up and there was an increase of staff accessing self-care relaxation sessions after school.
· A school had changed their offer this term by offering two mental health and wellbeing resilience weeks for years seven and eight with a lens on improving self-esteem, physical activity, connecting with others and resilience.
· Generally, the majority of children had returned to school successfully.
· The schools had delivered brilliantly as there was a perception that schools were shut this was not the case for vulnerable children, they remained open.
· The emerging themes following the full return of children in schools was an evolving picture to monitor.
· Individual schools were responsible to collect and measure emotional wellbeing and mental health data for their school population. The school would then react accordingly to their results as part of their IMHARS (improving mental health and resilience in schools) project work.
Link to Southwark’s IMHARS: https://schools.southwark.gov.uk/pshe-healthy-schools/mental-health-wellbeing
The Chair thanked Cassie Buchanan, Yvonne Ely and Lee Souter for their updates and contributions to the discussion.
1. That the Health and Wellbeing Board asked to see what opportunities there were to work with the schools and feed into the Health and Wellbeing strategy.
2. That the Health and Wellbeing Board asked to receive a schools exclusions report at a future meeting after initial conversations were had with key members of the Health and Wellbeing Board.
3. That the Health and Wellbeing Board asked for the mental health training offer for schools to be looked into further with Southwark’s Public Health Team to support both school staff and children.
4. That the Health and Wellbeing Board asked for continued efforts to communicate what mental health and wellbeing services were available for the schools and children.