Children’s mental health is featuring increasingly highly on many schools’ agendas.
Dave Harvey, Head of Residential Provision at Brathay, shares an approach to supporting gifted and talented students.
Mental health concerns in the school population are reaching an all-time high. While this is partly due to an increased awareness of the effects of bereavement, bullying or family problems, there are a growing number of young people who find themselves under extreme pressure to achieve high grades at GCSE. A recent University of Manchester report into teenage suicide found that over a quarter of the deaths between January 2014 and April 2015 were primarily connected with exam pressure. What often isn’t recognised is the effect on many young people of the stress induced by high expectations.
The introduction of Progress 8 means that ‘every increase in every grade a pupil achieves will attract additional points in the performance tables.’ Combine the weight of school expectation with parental pressure and you have a recipe for stress that much of the education system is ill equipped to deal with. So what can be done?
Schools have a duty of care towards their pupils and many are now recognising the need to focus on mental health and well-being. Identifying those at risk is not always easy however, and many young people are often only supported after they have shown signs of stress that have been recognised. Instead of being reactive, one strategy is to take a proactive approach and equip the young people with the tools that they need to deal with the pressures that they find themselves under.
Brathay have been focusing on their approach to well-being, which in turn leads to greater engagement and raised attainment. Our ‘Prepare for Success’ residential programme is aimed directly at gifted and talented students, and targets the skills, knowledge, attitudes and behaviours needed to survive and thrive at school. By combining theory-based masterclasses on emotional intelligence, coping strategies and resilience with high impact outdoor activities that make the learning real, we help young people increase their self-awareness and understand the choices that they can make to take control of their lives.