A Northumberland primary school has achieved the School Mental Health Award which is delivered by the Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools. NCEA Warkworth C of E Primary School has become one of just five schools across the UK to be awarded a Gold standard for its outstanding mental health and wellbeing provision.

Warkworth Primary School has embedded a wide range of strategies and approaches to support the mental health and wellbeing of pupils, staff and parents, including mindfulness clubs, yoga, a therapy dog, mental health and wellbeing areas in each classroom and daily opportunities to talk about how everyone is feeling. The school has also made mental health and wellbeing awareness central to its PSHE and RSE curriculum and all staff have mental health training as well as access to dedicated Mental Health First Aiders – an offer which extends to pupils and parents.

However, it was Warkworth Primary School’s work to not only support its staff and pupils, but the local community too during lockdown that commended the school to the independent assessor from the Carnegie Centre of Excellence to receive the Gold standard award.

“The implementation of the third national lockdown has affected everybody’s mental health and wellbeing in a big way,” said Laura Ritson, Head Teacher at NCEA Warkworth C of E Primary School.

“While our school remained open to vulnerable children and the children of key workers, the majority of our pupils have been taking part in live daily lessons from home. To help maintain a sense of ‘togetherness’ while we had to stay apart, we organised a community heart campaign where our children designed and delivered a series of paper hearts to residents for them to display in their windows. As part of Children’s Mental Health Week in February, we then completed a ‘walk to wellbeing’ around the village to see how many of our hearts we could find.

“We also sent wellbeing bags containing activities and resources home with pupils to help support pupils and their families, as well as organising weekly live wellbeing sessions to provide a safe space for pupils and their parents to discuss their thoughts and feelings during lockdown. We really do # strive together as one in all that we do at NCEA Warkworth Primary.”

“I am extremely proud of everything our staff, pupils and parents have achieved and to see their hard work rewarded through the School Mental Health Award scheme is absolutely fantastic. We’re now working with all schools within the Trust to really celebrate the great work that is happening across Northumberland Church of England Academy and develop an inclusive wellbeing strategy to support everyone.”

The School Mental Health Award was established in 2017 by the Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools – part of Leeds Beckett University – and social enterprise Minds Ahead.

The Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools aims to strengthen pupils’ mental health by supporting schools to make a positive change at all levels of the UK’s education system, improving students’ outcomes and life chances.

Professor Damien Page, Dean of Leeds Beckett’s Carnegie School of Education, said: “Achieving this award is not just recognition of a whole-school approach to mental health, it’s a recognition of the school’s commitment to improving the life chances of children.

“We’re truly proud to have worked with Warkworth Primary School in this vital work and look forward to further collaboration.”

Nationally, more than 800 schools have signed up to take part in the mental health award.

Dean Johnstone, founder and CEO of Minds Ahead said: “This award shines a light on the excellent work schools are doing to promote mental health for their community of children and adults.

“It is thrilling and humbling to learn about Warkworth Primary School and the many other schools engaged in the quality award process. I’d like to offer my congratulations on this deserved recognition.”

Photo caption: Pupils from Warkworth Primary School with their wellbeing bags.