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Developing Leaders of School Mental Health and Wellbeing

Minds Ahead CIC is a social enterprise that aspires for our schools to be world leaders in mental health. Minds Ahead works with schools, universities, think tanks, charities, local authorities, strategic partners and influential leaders to bring about change for the benefit of all schools. Here they tell us about the Master’s course in Leadership of School Mental Health and Wellbeing, that is being led in partnership with Leeds Becket University.

We know mental health issues are becoming more common and greater in severity. We also know that schools and colleges are willing and ready to lead this agenda but sometimes need guidance, support and confidence to do so. Therefore, Minds Ahead and Leeds Beckett University created an innovative partnership: the UK’s first Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools. As part of this we also created the first Master’s degree of it’s kind: Master in Leadership of School Mental Health and Wellbeing.

The first cohort started in September 2018 with the aim of creating a core group of senior colleagues able to lead mental health initiatives confidently in their school and beyond.  We knew from speaking with school leaders that there is a need for school-led approaches and a need to equip and empower school leaders to become experts in mental health.  Schools want to help their students the best way possible and this Master’s degree is evidence and research informed, with many different models from whole school approaches, working with local agencies, theories of resilience (including cognitive and neurobiological) to looking at cultural differences in mental health beliefs.  School leaders on the course have to look at the evidence presented and not only critique, but also evaluate and apply it to their own school, considering how they can improve practices within their own school, any potential barriers and how these can be overcome. This Master’s has given students more confidence to go out there and make changes in their schools:

The learning and development gained from the Master’s has given me the confidence, as a school leader, to try new things to positively enhance my school. Using research, programmes and initiatives from the course has enabled me to think more strategically as well as critically about our school practice around mental health and plan new provisions to further impact on our work.  We are now designing a bespoke curriculum, underpinned by learning from the Master’s course incorporating resilience, neuroplasticity and cognition theory to support child and learning development across our school. It is genuinely helping to transform our whole school approach.
Kerry Hill, Headteacher, Eyres Monsell Primary

The MA is a course I would recommend to anyone interested in promoting and facilitating a more proactive approach to mental wellness in school.  The opportunity to learn and consider different perspectives and how to apply these to our school to facilitate change is refreshing as is the online discussions with other students on the course.
Priya Mitchell, School Counsellor and Designated Lead, The British School Al Khubairat

The course is overseen by Professor Jonathan Glazzard and other academics at Leeds Beckett University. The usual university procedures apply around Master’s level validation, accreditation and ethical processes for research and we now have many of our first cohort of Master’s students involving their own pupils in dissertation research within their school.  Research topics include integrating the key aspects of mental health across all aspects of school policy, how the school nursery can set pupils up for success, evaluating whole school approaches to mental health, evaluating resilience programmes, and leading a flourishing culture across the school community. We are excited to see the results of our students own action-based research and the learning from them and the second cohort who are currently making their way through Year 1.

Find out more about our ground-breaking Masters’ programme on the Minds Ahead website or follow us on twitter @Minds_Ahead.

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