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MA degree to support mental health leads in UK schools

MA degree to support mental health leads in UK schools

It took the suicide of the headteacher of Hendon School in North London to get pupils and staff talking about mental health. The terrible event shocked them into dialogue, and two years later a group of more than 30 pupils have organised conferences for other schools and created a mental health app to help fellow students find support.

This kind of grassroots concern is commendable and welcome, but a UK Department of Education report in August 2017 estimated that three pupils in every classroom across the UK have a diagnosable mental health condition such as anxiety or depression, highlighting the growing urgency of the issue [Source: the Financial Times].

So, what is being done from the top down to monitor and improve mental health in UK schools?

The English and Welsh Governments have announced initiatives and investment to provide mental health training to staff in secondary schools. Yet the training provided is aimed mostly at secondary schools. And by the time problems come to light at or after the age of 13, says a London geography teacher and head of mental health interviewed by the FT, “It’s almost too late.”

A new Masters course from Leeds Beckett University is designed to equip school leaders to protect the mental health and wellbeing of pupils. The part-time, two-year MA or one-year Postgraduate Certificate starts in September 2018 and runs both at the campus and through distance learning.

The course has a practical focus and will see school leaders conduct mental health audits and implement, and critically evaluate, whole school action plans with a view to directly improving the mental health and wellbeing of pupils and staff in a sustainable way.

The first course of its kind, it will span a range of disciplines, from child therapy to education psychology, mental health nursing, school leadership and teaching.

Dean Johnstone, CEO of Minds Ahead, a social enterprise that partners with Leeds Beckett on this programme, said: "There is a chronic lack of professional support and guidance for the growing number of mental health leads within our schools. Committed school leaders and the children they support deserve much better. Yet again, Minds Ahead and the Carnegie School of Education at Leeds Beckett are working together to shape the agenda on mental health in our schools. The UK's first postgraduate course for school leaders of mental health and wellbeing will set the standard in this new area of school leadership."