A Whole School Approach to Emotional and Mental Wellbeing

Over the Easter holidays, Ysgol Aberconwy featured on television news and radio sharing our outstanding work on our whole-school approach to emotional and mental well-being. Students Jaydon (year 13) and Eimear, Pryce and Amelia (year 11) bravely agreed to be interviewed by S4C, sharing their views alongside teacher Rhydian Jones.

Recording taken from S4C News

In March 2021 Welsh Government published a new statutory framework for a Whole School Approach to Emotional and Mental Wellbeing (WSAEMWB), for all schools in Wales. It aims to provide direction to address the emotional and mental well-being needs of all children and young people, as well as staff and the whole-school community. It provides schools with the opportunity, through a continuous improvement approach, to promote positive mental well-being, prevent mental ill-health and to take action to support individuals where needed.

Between September 2021 and July 2022, Ysgol Aberconwy was selected to participate in a trial – piloting a Self-Assessment tool and evaluating its effectiveness with Public Health Wales before its roll out to all schools across Wales in September 2022.

Support was provided by a dedicated Implementation Coordinator from our local Health board who also monitored our school’s performance. In a recent report form Betsi Cadwaladr it was highlighted that Ysgol Aberconwy was doing exceptional work in the area of emotional and mental health and wellbeing stating:

“One of the standout qualities of Ysgol Aberconwy is their continued positive engagement with the self-assessment process. The school has a clear commitment to self-improvement and regularly evaluates its performance against national standards.”

“The school has a comprehensive approach that is focused on supporting pupils and staff to develop the skills and knowledge they need to maintain good emotional and mental health.”

“Ysgol Aberconwy is an exceptional school that is making a significant impact in the education sector. Their proactive approach to the WSAEMWB self-assessment and their work in the area of emotional and mental health and wellbeing is a model for other schools to follow.”

In 2021/22 just under 125,000 11 to 16 year olds took part in an online national survey from the School Health Research Network (SHRN) at Cardiff University that covered topics such as ‘mental health and wellbeing’, ‘school life’, ‘physical activity and diet’, ‘family and social life’, ‘relationships’, and ‘substance use and gambling’. As a result, for the first time, pre-Covid and post-Covid health and wellbeing data could be compared at a national level.

According to the latest report, the results found that nearly a quarter of secondary school learners in Wales reported having very high levels of mental health symptoms in the years following COVID-19. (The full report can be found here: https://www.shrn.org.uk/national-data/)

Speaking about the findings, Ian Gerrard, Headteacher said: “This data is really important to us as a school as it gives us a detailed insight into how the pandemic has impacted young people in Wales and helps us to understand what support they will need as they recover from it.  As a result, our pastoral team is well placed to provide support both to individuals and to groups of children who are expressing concerns about their mental health, and we are able to plan strategically to provide activities that will help them recover from the pandemic, such as extra sporting activities to develop their physical well-being and additional school trips to enhance resilience, confidence and independence. We are also able to target interventions from groups like CAMHS, MIND and the Anna Freud National Centre for Children & Families to those who need it most and to support families in working with their children as they return to school and learning.”