A News story by Ellena Schuster-Farrell 9 October 2017

Sadly one in 10 children have been clinically diagnosed with a mental health disorder in the UK – that is around three children in every class.

This brings into focus even more our collective responsibility to help pupils maintain and manage their mental health. Here we shine a light on the excellent work being done right across the trust to improve the mental health of our pupils and staff.

Mental Health First Aid

In 2017 we introduced an innovative mental health first aid programme, training staff to understand and recognise the early warning signs of mental health problems.

(To see the TES article on the brilliant work of our mental health first aiders, click here)

Jane Millward, E-ACT’s Director of Education notes that many of our children and young people are from disadvantaged areas, and that those who have been excluded from school are particularly at risk of mental health issues.

“It was clear to me that we needed to be proactive.”Jane Millward, Director of Education

Ten members of staff from across the trust have qualified as youth mental health first aid instructors through Mental Health First Aid England  and can now deliver an accredited two day youth mental health first aid course to E-ACT staff. So far, over 100 staff from across the trust have already been trained, with a further 480 due to receive training by the end of the current academic year.

The course trains staff to:

  • spot early signs of mental health problems
  • protect someone who might be at risk of harm
  • prevent a mental health issue from getting worse
  • promote wellbeing
  • guide young people towards the right support.

Empowering all staff to support youth mental health

Ali Quinn, E-ACT’s mental health lead, devised the training programme with Jane Millward. Although the Department for Education (DfE) has set targets for one person in every secondary school to be trained as a mental health first aider, Ali believes that this target doesn’t go far enough.

“The ultimate aim is for all our staff to be qualified mental health first aiders. If a child needs support with a mental health issue, it is better that whoever they go to can help.”Ali Quinn, Mental health lead

Ali is currently carrying out a research project on youth mental health provision which will evaluate the training programme and its impact.

Response so far has been fantastic, with lots of positive feedback from those who have received the training. There are also displays up in our academies highlighting support, and more people are talking about mental health.

Adult mental health

Mental health is not just a youth issue – according to MHFA more than one in six working age adults is depressed, anxious or experiencing stress-related problems at any one time.

We are now working to train six E-ACT staff as adult mental health first aid instructors so that we can look after the mental wellbeing of our staff too. Once the instructors are trained, they will train line managers to recognise and support staff who may be experiencing mental health difficulties.

Bespoke curriculum

Once staff have been trained, Jane Millward wants a bespoke curriculum around mental health in every academy. The children themselves will be involved in devising the curriculum.

“We’ll meet with groups of children in each of the regions so they can tell us what they think the curriculum around mental health should look like. This empowers them to get involved and tell us what’s important to them.”Jane Millward, Director of Education


We’re proud to be leading the way with our mental health programme by empowering staff to train one another, supporting young people and staff alike and getting children involved in devising their own mental health curriculum.