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Council invests £2m in Southwark’s schools-led approach to mental health

10 May 2021

This Mental Health Awareness Week, Southwark Council is shining a spotlight on the pivotal role schools are playing in promoting the mental health and wellbeing of the borough’s children and young people.

To support and grow this work, the council approved £2m in funding and launched a dedicated task force responsible for working closely with schools to improve mental health and resilience in schools. Their work is a key component of the council’s commitment that 100 per cent of children and young people in Southwark have access to emotional wellbeing and mental health support.

To date, 76 schools have made successful funding applications for a range of school-based initiatives designed to build resilience and promote mental health that will benefit at least 30,000 pupils – accounting for more than two thirds of all school children in Southwark. Projects include a wellbeing garden to create space for mindfulness and reflection, poetry workshops to encourage self-expression, and leadership programmes that provide students with opportunities to make a positive impact within their school and local community.

A key strand of the project is collaboration between schools which has resulted in successful shared projects such as an art therapy programme, a sensory space for students requiring more targeted support, and specialist training for parents and carers.

The emotional wellbeing and mental health of children and young people has also been integrated into training and development for all school staff. For example, more than 300 Mental Health First Aiders in schools across Southwark have been equipped with the skills and confidence to spot the early signs of mental health issues in a young person and guide them towards the support they need.

In a video about Southwark Council’s investment into mental health and resilience in schools, teachers explained the difference they had seen in their pupils.

Rebecca Sherwood, Executive Headteacher at The Grove Nursery School, said: “Since we had our new soft play room installed, I actually had a parent saying to me what a change she’s seen in her child that used to be quite anxious coming into nursery. She said now he’s really happy coming into nursery because it’s such an incredible place for him and something he needs.”

Joy Akpojotor, Deputy Head and Pastoral Care Lead at English Martyrs’ RC Primary School, said: “I believe that Personal, Social, Health and Economic education underpins learning. For us it’s been an eye opener making this education the building block of our curriculum. The children are feeling a lot more secure in themselves and they know if they didn’t do well in a lesson, that you can talk to them. They can find their anchor within their wellbeing and the tools that have been given to them. Because of that, their sense of self is shining through which is really, really important for us.”

Cllr Jasmine Ali, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Education, said: “We are committed to meeting 100% of our children’s mental health need. We believe every child who needs mental health support should receive it, and that’s what we aim to do, working closely with our education, health and voluntary sector colleagues and partners.

“We know that prevention and early intervention is key to tackling the causes of potential mental health issues. That’s why we’re investing £2m across all our schools to ensure we’re acting as early as possible to give our children the best possible start in life, especially amid the extra challenges they continue to face as a result of the pandemic.”

Schools have also been signposting young people and families to local support services such as The Nest. The Nest provides remote services alongside face-to-face support from its drop-in centre on Rye Lane, open to any young person aged 11 and upwards in Southwark who feels they need extra support for their mental health and wellbeing.

For more information about mental health support in Southwark for children and young people, visit The Nest or follow Groundwork London Youth on Twitter or Instagram to stay updated.

For more information about Southwark Council’s investment into mental health and resilience in schools, visit Southwark Schools

For more information about the mental health support available to anyone living in Southwark, visit Southwark Wellbeing Hub or call their helpline on 020 3751 9684.

Page last updated: 10 May 2021

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