In recent years, the subject of people’s mental health and wellbeing has become rather a hot topic.

Following in the footsteps of celebrities and even royalty, more and more people are becoming comfortable with sharing their thoughts and feelings around their mental health and using platforms like social media to raise awareness for conditions such as anxiety and depression, which affect far more people across the UK than you’d imagine, including a startling number of school-age children and young people.

This new cultural awakening has challenged employers to consider their own policies and provision around staff wellbeing and mental health, but what about schools?

Laura Ritson, Headteacher at NCEA Warkworth C of E Primary School shares her insight into the importance of mental health education and the provision of wellbeing support in schools.

Mental health in the curriculum

Mental health and wellbeing plays a central role in the curriculum at Warkworth Primary, so much so, that in March 2021, the school was awarded the School Mental Health Award by the Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools – one of just five schools nationally to achieve the prestigious Gold standard.

The body of work to achieve the award was extensive and incorporated multiple strategies and approaches including mindfulness clubs, yoga, the construction of mental health and wellbeing areas in each classroom and the introduction of a school therapy dog, to name a few.

The logic behind all of this? With good mental health, pupils and staff are more likely to be motivated and engaged therefore more likely to reach their true potential.

“Our in-school wellbeing provision was informed by a lot of research from sources such as The Church of England Education Office and the Place2Be charity which all made links between good mental health and improved learning outcomes,” Laura said.

“By educating pupils at the earliest opportunity about the importance of looking after their mental health and encouraging others around them to do the same, we hope to create an environment where both our children and staff feel safe and supported. As well as making mental health and wellbeing awareness central to our PSHE and RSE curriculum, we try to create as many opportunities as possible throughout the school week for pupils to talk about their feelings – no topic is ever off limits as understanding is key.”

Mental health in the community

The Covid-19 pandemic saw the school’s wellbeing practices start to transcend the school itself and have an impact on the wider community around Warkworth.

“Lockdown was a difficult time for many people – stuck in isolation, kept apart from friends and loved ones, the entire nation’s mental health took a bit of a knock,” Laura continued.

“At Warkworth primary, our school vision is #Strive together as one, so we wanted to do something 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. We also sent wellbeing bags containing activities and resources home with pupils to help support pupils and their families, and organised weekly live wellbeing sessions to provide a safe space for pupils and their parents to discuss their thoughts and feelings.

“The feedback we had from the campaign was absolutely incredible, it just goes to show what a little bit of time and communication can achieve.”

Raising the profile of mental health

Sunday (10th October) was World Mental Health Day and all across NCEA Trust, staff and pupils have been taking part in activities to raise awareness of the importance of mental health as well as vital funds for organisations such as Young Minds, who provide vital support to vulnerable children and young people.

“There has never been a more important time for us all to start looking after ourselves a bit better,” Laura concluded.

“By teaching the importance of self-care and helping children to understand their thoughts and feelings from an early age, hopefully we can help to curb the upward trend in mental health conditions affecting young people.”

You can find out more about the mental health and wellbeing programme at Warkworth Primary at: