December 23, 2021
In 2017, the Leicester based Odyssey Educational Trust set out to integrate wellbeing and resilience into their junior and infant schools. Their aim, to develop the mental health of their staff and pupils. Since then, by implementing focused policies and projects, the trust has successfully embedded wellbeing and resilience into their ethos, culture and curriculum.
Following a progress review with the trust's Executive Head and CEO Annemarie Williams, we are able to share their pioneering practice. A great example of how to integrate wellbeing and resilience within schools.
Below is a summary of what we discussed.
The wellbeing and mental health of our school community is fundamental to our ethos as a school. Everything that we do here, whether directly or indirectly, is about children's happiness and wellbeing. This has always been the way that we have worked. As the more explicit mental health agenda came to the fore in recent years, we started working on it more directly.
One of our school values is resilience and we do a lot that focusses on this. As part of this, our PSHE curriculum lead went on a resilience training programme run by Worth-it in February 2017. She shared the information that she learnt with us and this led us to want to further our understanding of how resilience could be used to develop the mental health and wellbeing of our children.
We realised that we were already doing quite a lot, but that Worth-it could help improve what we were doing even further.
After the training, we started a conversation with Worth-it. Together, we assessed our school needs and priorities in regard to developing our wellbeing curriculum, of which resilience would be an integral part. The conversation helped us realise that we were already doing quite a lot, but that Worth-it could help improve what we were doing even further.
From there, we had a consultancy session with Worth-it, where Liz (our school consultant) came and spoke with our senior team. We looked at what we were already doing, what we wanted to do, and what more we needed to do to achieve our aims of embedding wellbeing into our curriculum. The session resulted in a bespoke school mental health and wellbeing framework being developed. We used this to map our effective practice and inform our curriculum development work. We still use this framework today and it is key in everything that we do.
In May 2017, we used a staff twilight CPD session to launch the framework. This introduced the underpinning theory and our framework elements to the whole staff team.
At the start of the next academic year (August 2017), we then used our annual CPD residential to get into the nitty-gritty of the framework. Every year we go on a 2-day residential that is made up of two INSET days. This is a key opportunity for all of us to come together as a staff team and develop our wellbeing. This allows the team to reflect on their mental health, as well as to develop relationships and make sure that everyone understands the school's vision.
During this particular residential, Worth-it delivered a resilience training programme that they tailored specifically for us. They supported us to unpick the different strands of the framework with all of our staff and explore what these meant in practice. We used our residential, but other schools could just as easily use separate INSET days.
Following this, we put together a staff wellbeing project team to drive forward the changes we were making, lead staff wellbeing initiatives and to run the next residential. From then, we continued to look at the framework in more depth, as well as the specific wellbeing and resilience strategies we were developing.
Our curriculum is set up to think about children as active agents in the world. We don't shy away from talking about real world problems and issues.
So many things. We've implemented changes to our policy and development plan so that they reflect the framework. Our policy is written under each strand of our framework and outlines expectations for pupils, staff and the community in each area.
In terms of pupil wellbeing and resilience we've:
On the staff wellbeing side of things, we have:
And as a whole school we:
Rather than starting over from scratch, use what you've got and what already works and build on that. It'll be much easier to start and move forward...
I think there are always going to be some challenges that arise.
One key challenge for us is providing effective coordination and oversight of our targeted interventions and specialist support provision. There's a tension between operating as a mainstream school alongside offering specialist targeted support, and there has to be an infrastructure in place to support this.
There is a need to make sure that everyone works together in heading towards the same goal. As different team members come from different angles, is everybody understanding what we’re doing here, is it a coherent approach, are we all using the same messages, does everybody understand the different roles so that we are not replicating pieces of work? Somebody needs to coordinate this and provide quality assurance. Obviously this costs money and financing it is challenging but we look everywhere for different funding streams.
The other challenge is the sheer volume of need that comes in the door, which is huge, and the level of need of families. I think there is a significant opportunity for us to work with parents and families to help them support their children at home.
Firstly, think about your current curriculum and school ethos and developing a wellbeing framework that reflects that and works for you. Rather than starting over from scratch, use what you've got and what already works and build on that. It'll be much easier to start and move forward if you do that.
Secondly, think carefully about staff training and development. We've put a lot of time into that over the last 3 years. But you can use different sorts of time; INSET days, drop-in sessions and coaching sessions just to name a few. It's about pulling all the different parts of the framework and staff development together to ensure that its a success.
To find out more about an example of effective practice in developing whole school wellbeing then sign up for our FREE Online Mini Example Taster course. Learn more about our approach to supporting schools develop positive mental health and wellbeing by signing up for our Free Downloadable Workshop. If you are looking for help and support to develop wellbeing in your school join our Free Support Community for Senior Mental Health Leads and Wellbeing Champions.
Full write-up coming soon! Feel free to ask our team about this project for more information.