Framework launched to support schools to develop whole school approach to mental health

29th September 2020  |  By: Michelle Cunliffe

Today, the Anna Freud Centre launches ‘5 Steps’ – a framework to help schools and colleges develop a school or college-wide approach to mental health and wellbeing. This launch is timely given that the coronavirus pandemic has shone a light on how important schools and colleges are in promoting and supporting mental health.

Research suggests that whole school or college approaches can improve attendance and attainment, including research at the Anna Freud Centre which found that, as levels of mental health difficulties increase, attainment results decrease.

Written by teachers and school leaders with guidance from mental health experts, ‘5 Steps’ is a simple, free, interactive framework to help schools and colleges create their own approach to mental health and wellbeing – allowing them to work at their own pace and shape it according to their setting and priorities. The five steps include: Leading Change, Working Together, Understanding Need, Promoting Wellbeing, and Supporting Staff.

With half of all lifetime cases of mental disorders (excluding dementia) beginning by age 14, and three quarters beginning by the age of 24, schools are key in supporting mental health at an early stage before problems escalate.

Jaime Smith, Director of the Mental Health and Wellbeing in Schools Programme at the Anna Freud Centre, says: “Children and young people’s mental health is everyone’s responsibility. ‘5 Steps’ engages the whole school community including school staff, parents and carers, and pupils. By working together, we can make sure that children and young people get the help they need when they need it.

“Supporting good mental health is vital in helping children and young people to thrive. Schools and colleges which take this approach to improve pupil wellbeing, attendance and attainment, give their pupils’ the best possible chance to fulfil their potential.

“Due to the coronavirus pandemic, it is now of the utmost importance that we communicate with parents and carers, monitor pupil and staff wellbeing, and have strong systems of support to prioritise the mental health and wellbeing of children, young people and staff.

“The Anna Freud Centre reaches over 1 million children and young people in schools and colleges, so we are really well placed to help build on the great work which schools and colleges are doing. ‘5 Steps’ will support them to develop a simple approach that puts mental health and wellbeing at the heart of the whole school community.”

Access the ‘5 Steps to mental health and wellbeing: a framework for schools and colleges’:

On Thursday 1 October (16:30-18:00), the Anna Freud Centre is hosting a seminar on the first of the ‘5 Steps’, Leading Change, which will be freely available to school staff:


Senior Mental Health Lead training: New dates live

Sign up with the Anna Freud Centre, the UK’s leading mentally healthy schools charity.

DfE grant funding is available to cover the cost of our Senior Mental Health Lead training.

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