Through a commitment to nurturing the mental health of its students, multi-academy trust, Northern Leaders Trust (NLT), places student wellbeing at its heart, ensuring that every member of staff is dedicated to creating a safe and supportive environment for its students.
“We pride ourselves on putting students at the centre of everything we do,” says Matthew Allan, year leader at Kenton School and a key figure in the Trust’s wellbeing initiatives. “Our goal is to provide a solid foundation where students feel safe, supported and equipped to navigate the challenges they face.”
Recognising the increasing complexity of teenagers’ mental health, which is influenced by factors like the enduring impacts of the pandemic, social media and technological advancements, NLT acknowledges the struggles that students may encounter.
Additionally, while the number of children in a mental health crisis is at an all-time high, so are external support wait times. To address this, NLT continues to invest significantly in mental health and wellbeing provision to meet students’ needs before reaching out to external agencies.
The Trust has partnered with two counselling agencies, Place2Be and Kalmer Counselling, to provide support to students who require it. Both agencies offer 1:1 referral-based support, as well as a drop-in service.
Kalmer Counselling’s two counsellors, based in school daily, are available for referrals from year leaders and school staff, while drop-in counsellors offer immediate support for students who are feeling dysregulated, anxious or struggling with the demands of the school day. Kalmer Counselling works with approximately 20 students weekly through referrals and around another 20 through the drop-in service.
Place2Be allocates several 1:1 sessions to referred students and offers ‘Place2Talk’ support, which enables students to self-refer.
Anne-Marie Bennett, mental health practitioner at Place2Be, speaks highly of the scheme. She said: “I thoroughly enjoy my job at Kenton and feel very honoured to be part of the students’ improvement journey through exploring their own mental health needs.”
All students across the Trust can receive support, including those in the Sixth Form. Currently, most counselling referrals relate to anxiety, self-harm, trauma, attachment, depression and bereavement.
NLT’s support also extends to its work with Action for Children via its community project, ‘Youth Action Kenton’, and Children North East (CNE), who run Ways2Wellbeing sessions in school throughout the academic year.
Ways2Wellbeing is a session for parents and carers to come into school to learn about the teenage brain, anxiety, school avoidance, friendship issues and more.
Matthew continues: “The Trust is always open to developing further partnerships with mental health and wellbeing agencies. Encouraging feedback is a priority of the Trust. We value student voice and a big part of putting students first sees us allowing them to shape what we do and offer to our cohort.”
A recent student voice activity involved those accessing Kalmer Counselling, with 100% of sampled students ‘strongly agreeing’ or ‘agreeing’ that they felt listened to and supported by their counsellor. Students were able to leave additional comments, some of which included ‘I love knowing that I have an upcoming counselling session, it is supporting me through school’ and ‘counselling has helped me to open up about my feelings and emotions to others’.
Michelle Rasoul, counsellor at Kalmer Counselling, acknowledges that not only does the scheme positively impact students’ mental health, but also their academic development, reporting that there have been at least five students who have shown an interest in working in Mental Health Support Services. One student in Sixth Form has applied to study Social Work at Northumbria University, two have asked about being a counsellor and two would like to be mental health nurses.
Place2Be Children’s Mental Health Week takes place this month, with the theme ‘My Voice Matters.’ All year groups will undertake activities and attend an assembly on the theme.
Matthew Allan concluded: “It is an exciting time within the Trust as we continue to develop our wellbeing provision. We are striving to ensure all our students feel supported while continuing to foster a climate of high expectations.”
At a time where conversations around mental health are prevalent, NLT is committed to shaping an educational environment where students not only succeed academically, but also thrive emotionally.
As the Trust continues to develop its wellbeing provision, it remains devoted to ensuring that every student feels supported, laying the groundwork for a brighter and healthier future.