and mental wellbeing for children and young people
Cornwall Wellbeing Hub
Guide to Creating a Mental Health Policy for Your School
- Why have a MH Policy?
- What should be in it?
- Who should be involved?
- How will it be implemented / made a ‘living resource’?
- Links to other policies
- Sample Policies / templates
- Useful links / resources
Why Have a Mental Health Policy?
A policy is not statutory so why have one?
A policy can be the 'job description / route map' for a MH Lead and provides them with a support network across the school community. A policy also allows everyone in the school community to know that emotional wellbeing and mental health are an important (and public) part of school life. It also gives the school community a voice and helps all to know where to find help and support / who to speak to.
The Ofsted framework requires Ofsted inspectors to routinely assess and report on pupils’ mental health and wellbeing.
Ofsted will want to understand how all schools:
- Lead and develop a whole-school approach to support mental health and wellbeing.
- Monitor whole-school, RSHE and other strategies and activities that contribute to improvement priorities.
- Use approaches and activities, structures and staff within the school to promote the personal development, behaviour and the welfare of children and young people. For example:
- Promoting ‘breadth and balance’ in the wider school curriculum, including using RSHE and other strategies to support social and emotional skills and broader mental health and wellbeing.
- Using staff and peer relationships, school nurses (where available) and SEND support to help children and young people thrive and achieve.
- Develop in-school support strategies e.g. buddy systems or mentors.
- Have developed links to external support services via other agencies such as local specialist child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) and the broader range of local support services such as early help or voluntary sector organisations.
- Support the needs of particular groups or individual children/young people and their families, including pupils facing greater disadvantage who have special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND), looked after children, those with medical needs and those with mental health needs.
- Manage risks such as bullying and ‘discriminatory and prejudicial behaviour’.
What should be in a MH Policy?
- Roles and responsibilities and key contacts (including external partners)
- What is wellbeing / mental health?
- Understanding of some MH issues e.g. anxiety; low mood / depression; self-harm; eating disorders; OCD (as appropriate to your setting).
- Recognising need – using tools e.g. Wellbeing Measurement Framework; PASS; Boxall Profile; “I Wish My Teacher Knew…”; Pyramid of Need; Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire; Schools Health Education Unit (SHEU) survey
- Graduated response
- Universal: whole school – all staff / learners
- Targeted: support in school
- Specialist: partnerships with families and external agencies e.g. Bloom referrals
- Provision mapping and individual support plans / pupil passports etc.
- If I’m worried about a child… easy ways for everyone (staff / students / parents) to know how to support / signpost to the right people in school.
- Mental Health Education in the Curriculum
- Training for staff and students e.g.
- Trauma informed practice
- Emotion Coaching
- MH First Aid
- Youth MH First Aid
- Peer Support
- Suicide Awareness
- as appropriate to needs of schools
- Transitions: into / within / out of the school – as appropriate
- Evaluating / Measuring Impact of the Policy e.g. using tools like the WMF / I wish my teacher knew
- Links to other policies e.g.
- Behaviour / relationships - relationships are key. Need a relationships policy or element (not bolt on) in the behaviour policy
- Equality / Diversity
- Staff wellbeing
- Teaching and Learning
It is important that there is a consistency and coherence across all policies. The most obvious example being a ‘draconian’ ‘no excuses’ Behaviour Policy with isolation as a core strategy on the one hand and a relational policy on the other.
Where should you start?
With a Whole School Approach to wellbeing
Promoting children and young people’s emotional health and wellbeing: A whole school and college approach. Public Health England 2021. The latest revision to the PHE document includes cross referencing to the latest Ofsted Framework.The DfE training and support for MH Leads is centred around the PHE 8 principles.
Pooky Knightsmith: Six Litmus Tests
Another excellent and accessible iteration of a Whole School Approach can be found in Pooky’s book “The Mentally Healthy Schools Workbook” which uses ‘Six Litmus Tests’.
Who should be involved?
- Everyone. There needs to be a Whole School Approach so everyone needs a voice including the hardly reached students / families (Pooky Knightsmith – refers to ‘GOALies’ –members of the school community who Go Out And Listen… and has a simple resource to help)
- SLT / all school staff / governors
- YP / Parents / School Nurse
- MHST workers / CAPs where appropriate
- Education Psychology Service
- External Agencies
- Feeder schools / clusters / MAT schools
Sharing and the Promoting the Policy
Ensure the policy is accessible – communicate it well internally and make it available for students and parents/carers to view.
Include reference to it in the school prospectus
Have a section dedicated to Whole School wellbeing on the school website
Make wellbeing a standing item for:
- SLT meetings
- Staff meetings
- Governors meetings
- Student council
Produce 'policy on a page' versions for staff / parents & carers / pupils
Display key messages including key contacts to display in classrooms and elsewhere (don't underestimate the value of the back of the loo door!)
Sample Policies / Templates
A comprehensive guide to creating a mental health and a template to adapt.
- Draft mental health and wellbeing policy primary Werrington (Staffs)
- Mental health and wellbeing policy
- Sample mental health and wellbeing policy SPGS
- Sample Schools mental health policy August 2017 Liverpool
(*Also referred to Relational Policies to avoid confusion with sex and relationships policies!)
Developing an Attachment Aware Behaviour Regulation Policy - Brighton and Hove
Guidance for Developing Relational Practice and Policy - Devon
The documents below were originally hosted by Backcock LDP UK for Devon County Council. Those links no longer exist on the web (so references in the pdf docs below won't work) but the documents provide helpful information including a useful audit tool and support plan ideas.
Relational Learning: Supporting learning, development and wellbeing through relationship. (including audit tool)
Quick guide to Developing Relational Practice and Policy (2 pages - from main guidance document Appendix 1)
- A trauma informed schools relationship policy Trevithick
- A positive behaviour policy from Bodriggy Academy (based on Paul Dix: Ready, Respectful, Safe)
Resources / useful links
The Cornwall Wellbeing Hub
The Cornwall Educational Psychology Service
The EPS are developing work around relational policies alongside other aspects of their service. Contact your EP to find out more.
Dr Tina Rae
The Wellbeing Toolkit for Mental Health Leads: A Comprehensive Training Resource to Support Emotional Wellbeing in Education & Social Care
Dr Tina Rae, Dr Amy Such & Dr Jo Wood
Including a module entitled: "The Role of the Mental Health Lead: Developing a whole-school policy to support the wellbeing of pupils and staff". A hefty tome but highly recommended
A Toolbox of Wellbeing - Helpful strategies & activities for children, teens, their carers & teachers
A must-have collection of easy-to-use activities to enhance emotional wellbeing for children and young people. Contains user-friendly and evidence-based strategies to build good mental health and develop resilience.
The activities are divided into sections for younger children, teenagers and whole groups or classes, and are grouped under the three key trauma recovery approaches of:
- Self-Regulate for Wellbeing
- Get Moving Mentally & Physically for Wellbeing
- Connect for Wellbeing
(Go to the Wellbeing Hub and have a look at the recording of webinar Tina gave about the Toolbox in Cornwall along with other resources Tina shared with us)
Louise Michelle Bombèr (https://touchbase.org.uk/)
“Know Me to Teach Me: Differentiated discipline for those recovering from adverse childhood experiences”, Louise Michelle Bombèr 2020 (https://touchbase.org.uk/publications/)
This is a truly outstanding book. A must read. Includes a sample relational policy to adapt.
“When the Adults Change, Everything Changes: seismic shifts in school behaviour”, Paul Dix (https://whentheadultschange.com/ )
Again simply outstanding!
Dr Pooky Knightsmith
1. Whole School Approach
The Mentally Healthy Schools Workbook by Dr Pooky Knightsmith (schools in Cornwall can request a free copy)
How Mentally Healthy is Your School? A Simple Audit by Dr Pooky Knightsmith (pdf)
2. MH Policy guidance and template:
3. Creative Education online training portal
Anna Freud - Mentally Healthy Schools
Practitioners will have been provided with a sample relationships policy and some additional guidance docs based on their TIS training.
Resources for Governors
Page last updated: 27 April 2023