Primary school leads the way in mental health

A primary school in Otley is celebrating, after becoming the first school in Leeds to be recognised as part of a pioneering programme that supports children and young people’s social, emotional and mental health.

Westgate Primary School in Otley has been assessed and accredited by MindMate Champions, a new prevention and early intervention programme delivered by the NHS, Leeds City Council and charity Northpoint Wellbeing.
The school, which has more than 200 pupils, has put pupil wellbeing at the heart of its policies with initiatives like the ‘Nurture Room’, a welcoming space where pupils can go for support on a wide range of issues from regulating their emotions, to friendship skills, and self-esteem. A peer mediation scheme in the playground means pupils can help resolve small problems or disagreements between their peers and refer problems to teachers when needed.

The school was assessed on measures and criteria ranging from leadership and staff training, to partnerships, support services and how it measures progress. Pupils, staff and parents were interviewed, resulting in the school being awarded the first MindMate Friendly status in the city.

The assessment found: “All pupils felt that they were cared for and safe in school”, “problems were dealt with quickly and fairly” and “parents were extremely complimentary about how the school promotes a welcoming, safe place for their children.”

Helen Carpenter, Headteacher at Westgate Primary School, said: “We are really proud of the care we give to our pupils; of how they are helped to understand feelings and relationships; and show care and respect for others. Having this recognised through the Mindmate Friendly award helps us to stand up and say, ‘This is important to us and for children’.

“I would encourage other schools to get involved: the process was straightforward and supportive. The more schools that sign up, the more we can send a message that children’s emotional health and wellbeing – and that of staff and families – is crucial to everything we do.”

MindMate Champions is open to all publicly funded primary and secondary schools in Leeds, children’s centres and specialist inclusion units. As well as the opportunity to be accredited, schools that sign up receive access to free training for staff and MindMate lessons; a curriculum designed uniquely for Leeds, which is aimed at Key stages 1-4 and uses a range of evidence based strategies to support Children & Young People in managing their own wellbeing. As well as key themes such as ‘family and friends’ and ‘feeling good, being me’, there are more focused modules such as mindfulness and unsafe relationships. It is thought to be the first programme of its kind in the country.

Almost 350 schools, education settings and children’s centres in Leeds have signed up to the programme – more than half of the 593 who can take part. Alongside Westgate School, eight other settings have achieved the accreditation so far.

Dr Jane Mischenko, Commissioning Lead: Children & Maternity Services, said: “We are delighted to be highlighting the good work that Westgate Primary are doing to support their pupils. We are immensely proud of the MindMate Champions and Lessons programme we have in Leeds. It recognises the crucial role schools can play in a student’s mental wellbeing and gives them the tools to do this. We’ve even had local authorities from other parts of the country contacting us, wanting to set up something similar.”


For more information, please contact Zoe Ward, Senior Communications officer, NHS Leeds South and East CCG, on [email protected] or 0113 8341727.