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“I wasn’t really sure to expect but the first session was fantastic – so informative. I literally sat though it thinking of some of the parents and children and knowing that the issues being brought to light ticked so many boxes. I’d thoroughly recommend it and look forward to the rest of the programme.”

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Mitigating the mental health impacts of COVID-19

A ground breaking development programme designed to help schools to support the social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) of pupils amid the COVID-19 pandemic has kicked off this month in Bradford.

Backed by the Bradford Opportunity Area and run by the city’s Exceed Institute, the initiative aims to equip schools with the tools to better engage parents and pupils.

A series of virtual workshops is being made available for over 100 schools, with the aim of equipping Parental Involvement Workers (PIWs) and other school care leads with the skills and confidence to help families cope with the ‘new normal’.

In addition, enhanced COVID-19 recovery support will be given to up to 15 schools,  identified through self-assessments and public health data, that have been hardest hit by the pandemic.

Emma Dobson, Head of Professional Learning, who is leading the project on behalf of Exceed, explains: “The ongoing impact of Covid-19 and lock-down restrictions has seen many children miss months of schooling.

“This in turn has seen increased mental ill health issues, exacerbated pre-existing ones and negatively impacted on long term education.

“Moreover, the evidence suggests that these problems will disproportionately affect the most disadvantaged communities, of which there are a number in and around the Bradford district.

“In light of this, we knew we needed to do some targeted work looking specifically at increasing the relational value of parent partnerships.”

The aims of the initiative are to help parents develop the strategies to support the mental health and wellbeing of their own children, strengthen parent partnerships and create a culture of behaviours that will have a positive effect on home schooling.

Content is being delivered by nationally recognised experts in their fields via a series of six half-termly webinars. Subjects areas covered will include:

  • The Impact COVID-19 is Having on Mental Health
  • What Positive Parental Engagement Looks Like
  • The Power of Coaching
  • Empowering Parents 
  • Breaking Down Barriers and Restoring Confidence
  • How COVID has Impacted on Behaviours

Emma says: “This is not about attainment, progress or academic achievement – it’s specifically focusing on the relational aspects that hopefully in turn will lead to those things indirectly over time.”

“We’re delighted that there has been a real appetite for the programme since we first started marketing it at the end of the summer and we already have 100 participants from 70 Bradford schools signed up from a wide range of our target disciplines.

“It’s a really healthy mix which we’re confident will have the desired effect in terms of really starting to cross-fertilise the learning around the district.”

Schools engaging fully with the training throughout the academic year will be awarded a Positive Parental Engagement ‘Mark of Excellence’ accredited through the Leeds-based Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools.

“The idea behind this is to ensure that the whole process is collaborative and that schools fully sign up to demonstrating how they’ve used the training to really improve outcomes and make a difference,” adds Emma.

“Importantly, we also need some proper rigour behind the programme to understand not just what’s worked but also what interventions haven’t had the desired effect and where they might need to be changed.”

A range of other partner organisations including Born in Bradford and Positive Regard Teaching School Alliance (PRTSA) will be involved in the project throughout the year, providing valuable research insight to shape content and training materials.

Parveen Ali, parental involvement officer and designated safeguarding lead at Parkwood Primary School and one of the attendees at the first SEMH webinar said: “The opportunity was flagged to me by our Headteacher because there’s so little specific mental health training out there at the moment.

“I wasn’t really sure to expect but the first session was fantastic – so informative. I literally sat though it thinking of some of the parents and children and knowing that the issues being brought to light ticked so many boxes. I’d thoroughly recommend it and look forward to the rest of the programme.”

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“I wasn’t really sure to expect but the first session was fantastic – so informative. I literally sat though it thinking of some of the parents and children and knowing that the issues being brought to light ticked so many boxes. I’d thoroughly recommend it and look forward to the rest of the programme.”

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Find out more here

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