The Power of Collaborative Mindset
September 2019 at the ALT Headteacher conference discussion regarding the ever increasing concerns regarding the mental health of our pupils led to the development of a strategy within the North Suffolk hub schools. The establishment of CHIMP (Children’s Health is Mental and Physical) not only strengthened the support for the pupils and staff, but also gained momentum in securing a wider knowledge and understanding of how to care for the communities we serve. Head Teachers within the schools identified common areas of concern based on locational knowledge, together with national research to establish areas that needed a greater focus for supporting the children we serve. Although the Head Teachers initially identified the areas it was agreed that the pupils and parents views would add greater value and provide opportunity for collaborative working. Each school adopted their own approach for research and then the school councils from each school sought the pupil’s views and ideas. The following eight areas were identified: Physical Activity, Healthy Eating, Emotions, Time to Talk, Hobbies, Screen Time, Managing Positive Friendships, Sleep. Two pupils from each of the school councils met together and suggested the branding and how schools should deliver the initiative. Each school has approached it slightly differently.
Red Oak has a strong Mental Health Working Group of Parents and they were involved in supporting events around each theme. These have included a half termly focus culminating in weekly messages during assemblies and events to support the theme. For example the Sleep Focus resulted in a day of identifying the importance of clear bedtime routines. Children were invited to wear pyjamas to school, they each brought their favourite bedtime teddy, their toothbrush and story book. Older children and the Mental Health Ambassadors read to the younger children. The Head Teacher and volunteers from the parental Mental Health Working Group read bedtime stories and taught pupils how to clean teeth effectively. Over 70 toothbrushes and paste were handed out to the children who did not own a toothbrush. This helped us identify the importance of working with our parents to send home information sheets about the impact of not cleaning teeth regularly.
Grove and Westwood use assemblies as the launch and a separate teacher has been responsible for leading each theme. The school council led on the area of Hobbies to stress the importance of hobbies being an outlet for Mental health and that this could range from colouring or sewing to sports. Pupils sent videos and pictures in to school. A challenge is linked to each theme for example: Can you reduce screen time by 1 hour each day this week?
Similarly Pakefield, Reydon, Albert Pye and Ravensmere have established systems for embedding the CHIMP initiative within the schools. Parents have been exceptionally engaged with the initiative and children have reported on positive changes within the homes.
Martyn Payne, Headteacher at Pakefield Primary School, states “Although we have always addressed these areas in schools, bringing them to the forefront of the thinking of our parents has ensured greater emphasis on collaboration and unity. Routines have changed for our pupils and the impact in school has been evident, more sleep means more focus.”
As with any initiative, sharing facts with parents is key. However, linking approaches and strategies is essential so parents can make calculated decisions. Taking a positive stance has ensured parents are supportive, for example a leaflet stating facts around obesity concerns followed by ‘What should my child eat aged 3-5, 7-9 etc has resulted in big changes in the amount of unhealthy snacks seen in lunch boxes.
As we move forward, our school councils will meet again and review the work so far and see if the areas need to evolve or change. However, working together has certainly strengthened the positive impacts for our pupils and continues to unite our ALT North Suffolk Schools.