Restoring hope in schools through a proactive culture of Emotional Health

There is so much fire-fighting and crisis management in schools today, resulting in senior leaders and teaching staff finding themselves permanently on high alert. The pressures are from all sides – with so much focus on measuring success through grades, academic outcomes, inspectors descending at any moment ready to make a judgement on a school, sudden changes of policy around exams and curricular demands, cuts in external services which leaves schools to manage all kinds of issues they would have been supported with in the past, budget cuts, no strategic plan for the teacher recruitment difficulties and so on. The emotional culture of a school is not created by the values presented in its mission statement, but rather by the lived experience of the people working there, who are led and model their behaviour on their senior leaders.

There continues to be much written about how children learn and the understanding of what it takes to grow healthy, creative, engaged, responsible young adults; this is surely the main responsibility of a school – to grow the adults of the future for our world. Like plants and animals, humans need many things to grow such as water, nutrients, air, light, space and time. It can feel for schools that their core business is all about numbers and judging performance, without any understanding that life isn’t that black and white; there could be many reasons for a child’s underachieving during a particular period of time. The mental health crisis which is emerging in our young people is approached as another set of targets for schools to manage, being judged on the outcomes for their pupils in this area too, despite the lack of external services to refer out to now.

The pressures which teachers now face day-to-day is leading to a mental health crisis in staff too, and so  recruitment and retention becomes a problem, adding to the pressure-cooker feel of life for the whole school community.

Investing time and resources into developing, embedding and maintaining an emotionally healthy culture can produce long term benefits for the health and success of the whole school community. Research has shown clearly that such an approach can also have an enduring impact on pupils’ social, emotional and academic outcomes.

Encompassing programmes from Emotional Health at School, Family Links and Emotional Health at Work, we have 20 yrs experience of developing, delivering and evaluating emotional health programmes.

Mary Taylor