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Mental Health Awareness 

In the last four years there have been 123,713 referrals to external specialist mental health services by schools – according to data recently collected by the NSPCC. More than half of these were for Primary aged children, however many of these referrals would not meet the threshold for help.

At Highgate Primary School this is a subject very close to our hearts. Five years ago, we decided to bring about a talking culture in our school, resulting in the design and implementation of our in-house model of therapy. We understood the demands on teachers and we did not expect them to act as mental health experts.

Today we have 13 therapists on-site. They are made up of well-being practitioners, counsellors, play therapists and psychotherapists. They are all in training or accruing clinical hours towards their accreditation. Between them they see 39 children weekly for individual therapy. That’s nearly 10% of our school community. This is consistent with the recent report from YoungMinds, which states that one in ten children aged five to sixteen have a diagnosable mental health problem. That’s three children in every classroom.

David Brindle of The Guardian commended our model as evidence of how we have, “Swum upstream of developing family and behavioural problems, that can require costly interventions by multiple agencies. More importantly, they are transforming children’s lives”. And for us, it is not just about individual sessions for children, it’s about supporting the mental health and wellbeing of the whole school.

At Highgate Primary we currently offer:

  • A team of therapists
  • Dedicated pastoral support for families
  • Counselling for staff
  • Well-being training for staff with external professionals
  • Robust SEN support
  • Early intervention from birth
  • A team of therapy dogs
  • A truly inclusive culture

This academic year has been an exciting one for us as the government, the media, concerned influencers and organisations such as the NSPCC and the Children’s Society, have started to shine a spotlight on children’s mental health. Our work has been recognised across the board. Earlier this academic year, Katy Whitney won Haringey’s Support Staff member of the Year. The very next day, our pastoral and therapeutic model won the Guardian’s Public Service Award, Health and Well-being category. BBC News even featured our work with therapy dogs. As a result over 30 schools have consulted us about our model. We are also in discussions with a BBC documentary maker about a piece on how to embed high quality mental health services in to a school. We are hoping that this project will come to fruition in the next academic year.

Finally, The Royal Society of Medicine (RSM) invited us to speak at their Annual Innovation Summit. The brief was for Katy and Jane Brinson to present a 20 minute lecture and take part in a Q & A hosted by Sir Simon Wessely. We are proud that 300 members of the RSC were able to hear in person about our contribution to the development of mental health initiatives within schools. Our talk has been released on the RSM’s website giving our work global reach.

Our offer next year will be even greater as we are looking at:

  • Supporting local schools to promote emotional wellbeing
  • Zero Suicide training in conjunction with ‘Papyrus’
  • Adult counselling for parents

The well-being of our whole school community really matters and we are proud to play our part.