Mental Health: Supporting Vulnerable Learners

On Friday, we hosted the #VulnerableLearners conference for the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, funded by the STELLA project to support Mental Health provision in schools. This event totally supports our vision and values at Aureus School  – we have made wellbeing one of our 12 values and have spent a lot of time talking to our staff and students about staying healthy and happy, but equally what to do when we do experience negative emotions and difficult times. Our school’s vision is to ‘Nurture Hearts & Minds’ by holistically educating the whole child. Our trust’s vision is to enable all learners to grow, learn & flourish. We are committed to creating the conditions for thriving not just surviving!

 

The funding from this amazing charity and the support from the charity’s team enabled us to bring together 150+ teachers, leaders, governors, researchers, professionals and organisations who want to connect and collaborate on a strategic approach to mental health in schools. The expertise & experience in the room blew me away.

Mindful Mornings  – we started the day by offering a tour of our flipped day. Charlotte James, our PE LPD/staff wellbeing lead, and I showed 20 guests around to see: Mindful Art, Mindful Movement, Mindful Strategies and Mindful Reading. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive about what our guests saw and the impact it is already having on our culture and ethos at Aureus. The verbal validation of the palpable values being embodied in our bold choices at Aureus make me really proud.

Professor Sonia Blandford:

Our 1st opening keynote shared her research on deprivation, disadvantage and social mobility. Taking us through the steps of  I can, I do, I have, I am she encouraged us to not just identify but to remove the barriers holding our vulnerable learners back. She framed her data with core strength and mindset being integral to elevating independent learning and personal success.

Nina Jackson:

Our 2nd opening keynote shared her story. A story of a harrowing childhood, where she was abandoned and unloved, where school via music became her haven. Nina always makes me cry, but smile through my tears, as she is so authentic and raw. She is a true survivor and her story is powerful about the emotional  baggage she still carries from her childhood and family experience. She reminds us why we do what we do.

Clare Erasmus:

Our 1st case study was from the indefatigable MH Director from the Magna Carta School who is many years in to establishing a MHWB provision that is now embedded in the fabric of the school. She made us think and challenged us about the vulnerable learners we care for during termtime and what they need from us out of school hours.

Liz Robson Kelly:

I have met Liz a few times through #womened events and she has worked closely with some schools I know in the Midlands.   Her positive psychology research around resilience and the programmes she offers around self-worth are high impact and I am hoping we can launch some of her projects from Aureus to develop these skills in our learners. We need our young people to be resilient, to have bounce back & to have self-worth (she doesn’t call it self-esteem).

Julie Hunter:

Our DHT shared our why for our culture and ethos at Aureus, our how for what we have embedded in our 1st 100 days, and visualised what it will look like as we grow and establish. We owe Julie a lot of thanks at Aureus for the amazing provision she has curated. It is her brainchild and she enthuses our mindful mornings and coaching/ global citizenship afternoons.

Mental Health Teachmeet:

Opened by 2 of our Year 7 students, my heart burst with pride as Oli and Maddie reflected on what mindfulness means to them and shared what we have been doing to raise awareness of MHWB since we opened.  They were followed by Alice a teacher, Caro a house mistress, Charlotte a staff wellbeing lead, Dan from EduKit, John from Resilience Doughtnut and Lisa from Clear Sky. Each micro presentation added to the wider conversations about schools needing to have a  strategic vision for their MHWB provision, focused on preemptive, proactive and preventative activity for all rather than reactive intervention for some.

 

Workshops:

20 different workshops took part in the break out rooms after lunch – ranging from values to self-compassion, from play therapy to adaptive sports. Thank you to everyone who delivered a session, developed the dialogue and initiated further thinking.

Dick Moore:

A father who lost one of his four sons to suicide and a former Headteacher, Dick’s story speaks to your heart about the impact on a family when someone takes their life. He also reminded the room that our own children are as important as the vulnerable learners we look out for. I am glad that we had AV issues as if he had played the 12 songs that Barney had left on his I-Pod for this funeral I think I would have dissolved into bits! Dick is pragmatic about life and death, he shared his painful journey and the purpose it has now given him to raise awareness about mental health, depression & suicide.

Exhibitors:

A big thank you to all of the organisations and partnerships who attended the event to connect and network in this important space and the growing community of professionals committed to improving mental health provision in schools to support out vulnerable learners.

Takeaways:

  • We need to learn how to Dance in the Rain and teach our students to do it too
  • We need to work with our parents and carers more so that the dialogue continues at home
  • We need to support one another in our commitment to the cause and check in on our own mental health too

 

My Pledge:

  • With the STELLA project funding we have already launched a MH & WB network so my first pledge is to sustain momentum through these half-termly meet ups.
  • A half-day follow up from this event is planned for March and I am keen to get some of the delegates to come back and share the impact of our first event so I pledge to stay connected with the wider network.
  • We discussed yesterday how to work closer with parents, carers and the wider community so I have pledged to curate some Mental Health Masterclasses on our Wellbeing Wednesdays to help raise awareness.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The 150 people who came to this event and the 25 who came to our MHWB network launch – a passionate and purposeful group of people who to connect and collaborate with.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • The talks that hit a nerve with me yesterday were the ones on suicide ideation and self-harm, I need to do some more reading and thinking around these safeguarding topics.

Currently feeling grateful for: 

  • Charlie Waller Memorial Trust for funding the MH conference and MHWB network via the STELLA project.
  • Nina, Alice and Dick for sharing their very  personal stories about mental health, self-harm and suicide.
  • All of the contributors, the speakers/ exhibitors who all shared their time, experience and expertise for free.
  • My amazing team for enabling the event to take place, they were running around behind the scenes all day ensuring operations were smooth.
  • Julie, Charlotte, Maddie & Oli, our Aureus Ambassadors, for truly emobodying everything we stand for at Aureus.

 

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