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East Devon primaries win prestigious mental health award

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Three small primary schools in East Devon have been awarded a prestigious national award for their work in promoting good mental health.

Branscombe, Broadhembury and Farway have all won the Schools’ Mental Health Award from the Carnegie School of Education in Leeds which runs the centre of excellence for mental health in schools.

Older pupils at the schools have been trained as mental health ambassadors and an assessor said they were the most emotionally aware children he had ever worked with.

The three Church of England schools are part of the Jubilee with Pebblebed Federation run by executive headteacher Katie Gray.

The School of Education’s Ruth Whiteside, said:

“It is clear that the schools have worked tirelessly in these Covid times to ensure that the mental health and well-being of both pupils and adults have been at the top of the wider school priorities.

“Across the schools, there has been a cohesive approach to developing the language of mental health so that it becomes part of everyday practice for both pupil and adult alike.

“Parents and carers felt able to talk openly and honestly with staff. Because each school is so small, everyone knows one another very well and close relationships allowed mutual support for all.

“As a result, the move between COVID-19 lockdowns, blended learning and then a full return to school was managed well, with pupils adapting easily to new arrangements.

“The September start of this year was very positive and a source of pride for the staff that pupils and families were able to ease back into school life.

“The older pupils have been trained as mental health ambassadors and this too is a source of pride for the staff. The trainer remarked that the children were the most emotionally aware he had ever worked with and this was well-received by everyone, including their peers.

“The Personal, Social and Health Education curriculum is comprehensive and infused across the whole school day. All pupils receive a universal provision of activities to support mental health and well-being, with targeted provision for those pupils who are identified as being in greater need.

“There are good relationships with outside agencies to support those children and their families further.”

Executive headteacher Katie Gray said:

“We are all delighted to win this accolade.

“COVID-19 has created serious challenges for us all but there have been real concerns about mental health issues amongst children following the lockdowns.

“We had already begun work on this area before COVID-19 struck but it certainly assisted us in helping the children and their families.

“Good mental health is obviously so important in itself but if children are feeling concerned then they can’t learn. If they are feeling good mentally, then they are able to take advantage of all the educational opportunities that we provide for them.”