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Boosting children’s emotional health

Focus on West Berkshire's Emotional Health Academy

Andy Murrill

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Andy Murrill

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Boosting children’s emotional health

Childhood is a time for developing, learning, exploring and enjoying happy experiences with family, friends and peers, but this can be difficult for children and young people struggling to manage feelings and emotions.

Good emotional health – a broad term for dealing with feelings and emotions positively – is essential if a young person is to thrive, but if things aren’t going well, professional support can make a big difference.

The Emotional Health Academy (EHA) is West Berkshire’s innovative way of working with children and young people in need of this kind of support.

The EHA is not a building but a network of qualified psychology graduates who work with young people and families to provide early, quick, responsive support.

Its mission is to get to work before problems become severe and enduring and, working in partnership with schools, GPs, children's centres, the police and other organisations, the approach is getting results.

In its first 12 months, the EHA supported 1,198 children, young people and families and provided training to 237 members of school staff, showing them how to strengthen the resilience of their students.

In the same time period the EHA worked with 28 schools on a weekly basis.

This involved work with individual or groups of students and parents for a wide range of difficulties, including anxiety, low mood, self-harm, poor behaviour and attendance, friendships, eating, sleeping, attention and concentration, and other problems associated with autism or other learning difficulties.

The unit also received 374 referrals through the new triage process – a system enabling all members of the community to refer a child or young person they are concerned has emerging, mild or moderate emotional health difficulties.

Triage consists of a weekly meeting of professionals from public and voluntary sector services, who make recommendations for support and then monitor the success of the chosen approach.

This means children and young people get the right help at the right time, and the demand is shared across public and voluntary services.

The feedback is consistently positive, with children, young people and their families impressed with the tailored support they receive.

Every child working with the EHA sets individual goals, measurable outcomes and makes a plan that is achievable and specific to give them the greatest chance of outcome improvement.

During 2016/17, more than 80 per cent of children demonstrated improved measurable outcomes and demand for specialist mental health services has decreased, meaning that fewer children and young people have had to wait for their difficulties to become acute, severe and/or enduring before receiving help.

If you are a parent, guardian or teacher with concerns about a young person, you can refer them for help at http://info.westberks.gov.uk/eharefer

CASE STUDY – Mrs Sue Ball, headteacher, Cold Ash St Mark’s CoE Primary School

AT Cold Ash St Mark’s we are very conscious that a child’s emotional health can have a big impact on their ability to thrive in school and I was delighted to welcome an emotional health worker (EHW) to school for an initial session with the staff two years ago.

Since that time our EHW has worked with individual students and a group of Year 6 children on recognising the impact of their behaviour on one another and, more recently, learning to speak about their emotions.

It has been an absolute privilege to watch as the children engaged with the EHW and I’m certain the sessions will have helped as they transition to the next stage of their education at secondary school.

In fact, the impact of being involved with the Emotional Health Academy has been felt by the children, their parents and staff in equal measure.

We did start the year with one hour of support and quickly realised that would need to double the provision.

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