How can you propose a peer wellbeing programme to school leaders?

We often get asked how to approach SLT for funding for our peer wellbeing programme within schools and we thought it would be helpful to pull together some information for you. We’ve included summaries of what the programme is, how it’s delivered and its impact, so you have the information you might need to draw on at your fingertips. 

Our peer wellbeing programme is called Wellbeing Ambassadors because it trains young people up to be wellbeing and mental health ambassadors and lead initiatives within their school or college. It’s just over a year since we launched this programme and we’re thrilled with the impact it’s having. It’s been so popular that we’re piloting a programme in primary schools. You can find out more about the primary pilot here.

“The Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme was absolutely fabulous and so informative, it has truly helped us to start the process in reducing the stigma of mental health, creating workshops for stress coping mechanism and just getting people to talk about mental health, illness and wellbeing.

Kieran Smith and the sixth form council, Hathaway Academy, Essex.

So, what is a mental health ambassadors programme? 

It’s an early intervention and prevention programme which trains young people to support their peers, reducing the risk of mental ill-health. Young people are trained by a member of staff within school – it could be you – to support other students on an individual basis and to run school-wide campaigns which increase awareness of mental health issues and help reduce stigma surrounding them. 

All our programmes are based on positive psychology and have been co-produced with young people to offer the support they want and need. Our approach is to help build the confidence and boost self-esteem of young people, equipping them with coping strategies and ways of identifying their own strengths to help protect their mental health. It’s a prevention is better than cure approach – we work to prevent mental health issues in young people as well as support those who may already be struggling. 

“The work of our ambassadors has had a hugely positive effect and has genuinely made a difference to young lives. They’ve become a well-known and significant group and cause in the school community.”

Amy Tinson, school support leader, Huntingdon school, York.

Tips for proposing the programme to your school leadership team

  • Decide how the programme will support wider plans you have for developing mental health and wellbeing in your school or setting. 
  • Who do you want to work with you on this?
  • Are there any other members of staff who might want to lead the programme with you, or who you know will be particularly supportive of the programme? 
  • Clarify the aims and plans you have for the programme. 
  • The Wellbeing Ambassadors programme can help young people develop a sense of belonging, build positive relationships, and improve their access to support. You might want to use the programme to improve inclusion, reduce mental health stigma or support with transitions. Decide what would make the biggest impact in your school or setting. 
  • Try to anticipate any reservations you think your leaders or governors may have and how you might address these reservations.
  • Identify what the key sticking points could be. These are usually related to time, money, and capacity. What is it about this programme that could help with these? The wellbeing ambassadors programme can free up staff time as pupils and students are trained to support each other, leaving capacity for staff to deal with students who have more serious issues. 

Read our super-duper cheat sheet which has stacks more information about the wellbeing ambassadors programme and strategies for delivering it, including a very useful checklist to get your programme started!

How is the mental health ambassadors programme delivered? 

This targeted intervention programme is provided to you as a digital toolkit – this contains everything you need to train your chosen cohort of young people as mental health ambassadors, including tips on choosing your initial cohort if you’re unsure which students to train – some schools train one year group of students and some choose to train a mixed group of pupils to support their peers.

Wellbeing Ambassadors Badge Logo
Wellbeing Ambassadors Logo

You’ll receive a trainer handbook with an outline of how to deliver the workshop to the students – the workshop is best if it can be delivered in one day but we understand that timetable constraints won’t always allow this so we’ve designed it to be adapted into several sessions which can be delivered over a week or a few weeks, whatever works for you. 

What happens after the training? 

Your students will plan how best to support others, whether it’s one-to-one chats, or a drop-in room, together you can work out how the programme works for your school – just as the workshop is adaptable, the programme is also flexible and different schools choose to do it for different reasons. One school decided to use the wellbeing ambassadors programme specifically to support their new year 7s and had great success!

“More than one of the year 7s has said they want to be a mentor when they grow up. I like that it is cyclical. So not only have we got this year group now who have benefited, but when that year group reach year 12, we'll probably have a bumper crop of Wellbeing Ambassadors! I hope my mentors understand that they can't underestimate the impact they’ve had, what it is that they have done, what they've created, what they've set up, how that's going to just keep going.”

Dominique Jones, wellbeing programme leader, Dame Alice Owen’s School, Hertfordshire.

What is the impact of implementing a peer wellbeing programme? 

The programme has a positive impact on all involved. Students who are trained as Wellbeing Ambassadors learn to become better communicators, better listeners, and develop interpersonal skills. They practise being supportive and non-judgemental and are trained to empower others as well as feeling empowered themselves. These transferable skills can stay with Wellbeing Ambassadors for life and help them build positive relationships and protect their own mental health. 

Wellbeing Ambassadors learn how to initiate and run campaigns. Being a Wellbeing Ambassador boosts self-esteem and demonstrates empathy, reliability, compassion, and trustworthiness, and, for those who run initiatives, leadership skills. 

Many younger peers report an increase in confidence and the knowledge that there is always someone to talk to when previously they may have felt they did not have anyone to talk to without being judged. The programme can increase engagement at school because the young people have an increased sense of belonging, are more able to build positive relationships and feel safe and connected to school. 

I think we've seen the impacts on everything, particularly in terms of behaviour, because once you've got amazing behaviour, the children are so, so much more ready to learn that actually, it has a bigger impact on everything you need to improve as a school.”

Joanne McMullen, Rainey Endowed school, Northern Ireland.

To find out more about how a wellbeing ambassadors programme can support school mental health and wellbeing, read our detailed impact report.

What funding can you access for a mental health ambassadors programme in your school? 

Pupil premium can be used as the Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme helps reduce barriers to learning. The programme costs less than one pupil premium and benefits all children! You might want to use covid catch-up funding to pay for the programme. Now and Beyond – part of the Beyond charity – has a hardship fund for struggling schools. You can find out how to access their grants here. As a Now and Beyond partner provider, Worth-it’s training courses are eligible for such grants. Your local authority may have a funding pot you could access, and local grant funding organisations are also worth researching. 

Often young people seek support too late: when they’re in crisis. Developing skills before crisis hits is much more effective. We want young people to be flourishing – feeling good and functioning well. Anyone who isn’t flourishing is at risk of developing mental health problems. 

Find out more about how you can train young people in your school or college to become mental health ambassadors.

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