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Is your school culture towards mental health reactive or proactive?

It has been fantastic to see so many hero teachers posting on social media about the importance of mental health during mental health awareness week earlier this month. Here at Future Action we believe that mental health should be a key focus not just for one week of the year in schools but all year round.

Do you know how to support a child within PE lessons if they are brought to you struggling with their mental health?

Are you looking to create a culture of positive mental health in PE and have whole school impact but are not sure where to start?

In this edition we show you how the highly innovative City Academy Norwich have used Future Action’s Building Mental Fitness course to transform their culture around pupils' mental health from reactive to proactive. Inspirational Headteacher Paul Collin has placed great emphasis on student well-being and the Academy is reaping the rewards resulting in calmer, happier young people, enhanced relationships and improved behaviour, progress and attainment.

Paul Collin, Headteacher, said ‘It’s crucial, now more than ever to consider how schools and colleges are developing both the academic and the wellbeing of every young person. At City Academy Norwich we place a core emphasis on every child having the same opportunity in life. Being mentally, fit, happy, energised and productive are key attributes that everyone can benefit from having. Our work with Future Action and the Building Mental Fitness programme has allowed us to ensure we consider a proactive approach to these areas, working with all our young people to become the very best versions of themselves and achieve future successes.’

CAN’s program started in May 2020 as the first lockdown was used to test the resources with key worker children focusing on mindfulness alongside a rigorous personalised circuit training program.

From September 2020, all Key Stage 3 groups and some Key Stage 4 groups studied Building Mental Fitness alongside a differentiated yoga program as part of the school’s recovery curriculum.

The lesson on the mental health continuum has helped staff identify young people who are struggling with their mental health but sneaking under the radar. This lesson in particular helped identify on average 3 pupils per class and direct them to the school’s social, emotional & mental health counsellor for additional support. It also helped identify 2 safeguarding issues and put support in place for the child.

The unit then moves on to look at the Mental Fitness Pyramid which focuses on building confidence and self kindness, using worries as a positive and creating a vision for the future. Sarah, a pupil in Year 8 said ‘My confidence about me and my mental health is higher than ever before.’

The unit finishes off by looking at healthy and unhealthy habits and teaching pupils how to access the happiness chemicals.

The online course was accessed by all PE staff to upskill them as part of the department's Continued Professional Development program. Bryony Radley, PE teacher, said ‘The Building Mental Fitness course has given me a number of strategies and greatly enhanced my confidence in supporting young people struggling with their mental health.’

This term the school’s program has evolved with an optional Key Stage 4 group covering the Building Mental Fitness content during walking for health in core PE. It has been fantastic to see the group’s openness to discuss their own mental health grow and create a culture of peer support so young people know they are not battling their mental health on their own. CAN have also added a Walking for health enrichment activity for year 7’s as part of school’s innovative ucan program to develop cultural capital..

Outside of PE, the course content has been used to help PE drive whole school impact. All Year 8 students have covered Building Mental Fitness in RSHE this year to reinforce the importance of proactive self care strategies and all form groups cover the content as part of Mindful Mondays, Wellness Wednesdays, Physical Fridays to create and reinforce healthy habits throughout the school. These posts are then shared on social media so the wider community can benefit from the excellent strategies within the program.

With the uncertainty created by Covid, there was an increase in staff wellbeing issues, so a dedicated staff program was created on google classroom so staff could benefit from pre recorded videos explaining the strategies in a way that staff could access confidentially.

The whole school impact of Future Action’s program has been dramatic and the program was a major contributing factor to the school being awarded the Afpe quality mark with Distinction. Chair of Afpe Mike Crichton cited the school’s Highly effective links between Physical Education, School Sport, Physical Activity and wellbeing including a very innovative approach to COVID-19 recovery since lock down as one of the reasons why the school was so successful.

The Future Action Building Mental Fitness course teaches you and your team how to set up the same outstanding program with easy to follow videos and editable resources to save you hours of time creating resources. Click on the link below to find out more:

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