Mental Health is an issue that touches us all, whether individually or as a society. Unfortunately, in recent times, it is our young people who have been disproportionately affected by it. In 2008, The Children’s Society revealed that 1 in 10 children were affected by mental health and more recent data from the NHS shows that one in eight, 5-19-year old’s have at least one mental disorder, when assessed. For children of secondary school age, according to the WHO (2019), this problem worsens with 16% of mental health conditions attributable to 10-19 year old’s. Adolescent mental health has become a significant health issue for our nation, even before we factor in the inevitable legacy of Covid-19.
In recent years, Harrogate Grammar School has made mental health and wellbeing a whole school focus. They have used the Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools award framework to review, evaluate and plan the leadership of provision across school for both staff and students, silver status was achieved in January 2020. Alongside this, Tim Milburn, Deputy Headteacher, has been working towards a Masters in Leadership of School Mental Health and Wellbeing with Leeds Beckett University and successfully achieved this in February. This course is the first of its kind in the country and has given both Tim and Harrogate Grammar School a great basis to further their work on mental health and wellbeing within school and to also share knowledge, expertise and best practise within the Red Kite Learning Trust.
This has been a great experience and it has given me the understanding and confidence to effectively lead whole mental health within school using the latest research and evidence. The content of the course as well as the modules and assignments have also enabled me to thoroughly, critically and analytically adopt best practise so that the mental health and wellbeing of both staff and students is supported and strengthened.
Taking on a Masters, whilst working full time, and during a pandemic, has brought with it some challenges but it has also given plenty of opportunity to put theory into practise.
Managing the workload of a Masters degree, whilst working full time, and during a pandemic has been challenging at times. For example, I began my dissertation as the school gates were closing in March 2020 resulting in me having to completely redesign my research project, not knowing when we would see our students again! However, I was able to use the period of school closure to look at how technology can be utilised to support our young people with their mental health and wellbeing, a real and practical project that benefitted our students in the short term but has the potential to reach more students in the future.
Having now completed this qualification Tim is really keen to see the good work at Harrogate Grammar School continue and develop, looking immediately at how staff and students are supported upon their return to school in March. Working within the Red Kite Learning Trust (RKLT), which serves over 8000 students in both Harrogate and Leeds, also gives Tim and opportunity to affect change beyond his own school.
I have been very fortunate that HGS and RKLT have supported me to complete this course and I am really looking forward to paying back that investment by working with colleagues across the Trust to continue the important work on mental health and wellbeing.
Neil Renton, Headteacher, commented:
Working with the Carnegie Centre of Excellence and the in-depth research on the Leadership of School Mental Health MA, has given real rigour to Mr Milburn’s pioneering work. We are incredibly proud of the progress that this work has enabled us to make as a school and we are also proud of Mr Milburn’s accreditation at Masters level – a real credit to his commitment and perseverance.