In October 2019, Ofsted updated its framework and included revised guidelines on mental health and wellbeing in schools. With good emotional and mental health the foundation for children achieving goals and aspirations, these changes are a step in the right direction.Four judgment areas are now included:
Quality of education
Behaviour and attitudes
Leadership and management
This demonstrates a departure from the previous more data-driven approach, as the area of ‘outcomes for pupils’ has been removed. This, combined with a renewed focus on personal development, should be much better for children’s wellbeing in school. Ofsted is now focusing on how a school’s curriculum design meets the bespoke needs of all its pupils – focusing on the development of the ‘whole child’.
The impact on children’s mental health
From a mental health and wellbeing perspective, there are many improvements to be found in this new framework.
It now includes the critical elements of emotional wellbeing, including relationships, self-confidence, self-discipline, communication skills, and having a positive mindset.
The framework also acknowledges the importance of supporting pupils who have specific behavioural and/or mental health requirements. Additionally now, there’s also recognition that schools need to create and embed a culture that nurtures and promotes emotional wellbeing and good mental health.
To achieve good status: pupils must, “enjoy learning about how to stay healthy and about emotional and mental health, safe and positive relationships”
To achieve outstanding status: pupils be must be able to, “make informed choices about healthy eating, fitness, and their emotional and mental wellbeing”
The framework is based on those elements that have the most protective effect for all children. The context of inspections will pivot around the question, “What’s it like to be a child in this school?” – demonstrating a more child-centred rather than outcome-based approach.
How should schools promote mental health and wellbeing?
In order to promote mental health and wellbeing, schools should raise awareness and provide a range of support for all those who need it. Creating and nurturing a school culture that protects emotional health can be done by:
Providing teachers with training and quality supervision
Working directly with pupils and parents/caregivers
Peer support sessions
Embedding mental health and wellbeing teaching into the curriculum
Writing mental health and wellbeing principles into school policies
You can also find class trips that focus on mental health and emotional wellbeing. A good example is the Eden Project in Cornwall, where they practise meditation and yoga in the evenings for the children after their school visit.