A new focus on a ‘whole school’ approach to mental health and wellbeing for children and young people has been announced by the Welsh government to support the wider and ongoing reform of mental health support.
As part of a multi-agency approach, schools have an important role to help deliver the ambitious goal of building a population of emotionally-resilient and mentally healthy children and young people in Wales.
A ‘whole school’ approach would ensure that mental health and wellbeing becomes central to the way in which schools work, and will touch on many different aspects of school life. This means that the school ethos will support the broader mental health and wellbeing of learners, which in turn will help to prevent other issues from developing or escalating, including mental health issues.
Education Secretary, Kirsty Williams, and Health and Social Services Secretary, Vaughan Gething, recently announced that a Joint Ministerial Task and Finish Group is being set-up to accelerate work on this approach.
Schools have a clear role in supporting prevention and helping with early intervention. It will look at the new curriculum being developed and consider issues such as staff training.
The new group will see how different activities already taking place can be brought together; highlight any gaps in provision; and ensure that energy and resources are targeted so that they can have maximum benefit.
The work of the group is in response to and, will be informed by, the report by the National Assembly’s Children, Young People and Education Committee, Mind Over Matter, which called for emotional and mental wellbeing and resilience to be a stated national priority and contained recommendations for how this could be taken forward.
The group will be jointly chaired by the two Cabinet Secretaries and will bring together those working in education and health and the wider public and third sectors. Lynne Neagle AM, Chair of the Children, Young People and Education Committee, has agreed to act as an observer to the group and will participate in its work.
Education Secretary, Kirsty Williams, commented, ‘The emotional and mental health of our young people is paramount and that’s why we want to make sure they are fully supported – through each stage of their education – to be emotionally and mentally resilient, confident, and, above all, happy.
‘Work is already underway to provide dedicated professional support to schools, including our Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service pilot, but what we’re talking about here is an approach that goes right across the school, connects activities already taking place, and identifies where we can go further and faster.
‘We want schools to become exemplary in the way they promote mental health and wellbeing and this group is just the beginning of a process that will take us to that point.’