Billingshurst school wins award for promoting positive wellbeing and mental health
A scheme which recognises schools for building better mental health and wellbeing has awarded a Billingshurst school for its efforts.
The Weald School won the Wellbeing Award for Schools in November after signing up to the national accreditation in summer 2018.
Presented by the National Children’s Bureau (NCB) and Optimus Education Ltd, the award focuses on changing the long-term culture of the whole school using an evidence-based framework.
Sarah Edwards, deputy headteacher at The Weald, said: “We had been working for a long time on increasing and improving our pastoral support for students who needed additional care, and we were also concerned about the increasing strains put on staff in schools due to external services being cut.
“The impact of achieving this award has been very broad: it has served as a tremendous acknowledgement of the work of our pastoral team across the school which in turn has proven to be a great motivator to continue to drive our standards of care for our students even higher.”
After headteacher Peter Woodman enquired about joining the scheme back in 2018, the school was advised by Optimus Education Ltd that there were two routes towards achieving the accreditation: either a school-led or an advisor-led approach.
“We opted for the advisor-led approach so that we would receive support from an expert who visits many schools as part of their work and could ensure we adopted best practice,” said Sarah.
“Achieving the award in itself was never the priority; rather, it was the work that went into achieving the award that was the most significant factor in our decision to go ahead.”
The first part of the process was a meeting with the advisor who talked the school through the eight areas of the accreditation and asked the school to set out its current provision.
The advisor then provided concrete strategies for completing each of the eight stages and gave an outline of an action plan.
The school subsequently appointed a wellbeing team made up of a head of house, Phillipa Robins; one of its sixth form managers, Dee Gammond; safeguarding governor, Sally Catchpole; head of Ccaracter and culture, Matt Fry; a member of staff with an active interest in this area of work, Andy Cooper; and deputy headteacher,Sarah Edwards.
Sarah said: “We met monthly to review the action plan, complete a SWOT analysis of our provision and set interim targets on the action plan.
“What quickly became clear was that our provision for staff and students for wellbeing was varied, but not strategic, and certainly not coherently drawn together or well advertised to those who needed it.”
Over the course of nine months, the team continued working towards achieving the award, and hosted an interim visit from the advisor who checked on the school’s progress in the eight areas and provided support and practical guidance on the next steps.
Sarah said: “The most significant part of the work was in creating a coherent strategy for the award which involved setting whole-school targets with SMART outcomes and staff responsible for achieving them.
“The most evident impact of this strategy has been a new Weald Framework which moved away from our old community framework and towards a structure to underpin every aspect of our vision and ethos as a school: namely, that educating young people to become decent citizens who are successful in their chosen paths beyond school can only be done by focussing on their characteristics and not wholly on their academic pursuits.
“This new framework was drawn up with contributions from the wider student and staff body and has been welcomed wholeheartedly by all stakeholders.”
The final part of the process was the verification visit at the end of November when an assessor required meetings with a range of stakeholders (including students, staff, parents and governors), an interview with the headteacher and a presentation by the school’s wellbeing team.
Sarah said: “Finally, he reviewed all of the evidence we had put together and immediately judged our work to be unequivocally in line with their expectations to pass the accreditation.”