5 Steps in action at Ewell Castle School

Carolyn Varney, School Counsellor at Ewell Castle School, reflects on implementing the 5 Steps framework in her role and the positive outcomes her education setting achieved as a result.


An environment for all students where it's normal to talk about mental health

Our goal at Ewell Castle was to create a mentally healthy and resilient school, where students (together with their parents and carers) and teachers felt confident in knowing that their needs were catered to. We were looking to foster an environment for all our students where it was normal to talk about mental health. Our approach focused on representing mental health in the many different areas of school life. At the same time, we wished to address the wellbeing of staff, ensuring we put in place practices that supported their mental health. Lastly, we decided to prioritise signposting and guidance to parents and carers concerned about the children in their care.

Achieving all of these goals represented a big project that could have easily felt overwhelming. However, introducing the 5 Steps framework, proved to be an invaluable aid.

5 Steps is adaptable to each school setting and structure

The 5 Steps framework guides you through an audit of your schools’ current mental health provision. It enables you to develop a picture of where you are now and where you would like to be in the future. It takes you through 5 Steps in a logical and well thought out order.

The framework is completely adaptable to each setting and provides all the information and resources needed. can be thought of as a jigsaw where the framework provides all the pieces and the schools’ job is to work out how the resources best fit into their structure, thus completing the picture.

We formed a working group and are using the framework as a focus for our work together. We have done a broad overview, using the helpful traffic light system, to make a judgement about where we are in relation to all the areas earmarked. As a group, we plan to meet twice termly to review progress and pick another area to focus on.

Our work began with Leading Change: naming a designated Mental Health Governor and writing a mental health policy. In addition, the step encourages you to define the roles and responsibilities of those providing support and set up notice boards act as a signpost to further help.

We can do things at our own pace

One of the hardest parts was knowing where to start, and the framework clarifies this with a ready-made structure to follow that provides real focus to our work.

This helped create momentum and energy to do this work. Thanks to the resources, we do not have to build everything up from scratch. It provides a ‘thinking space’ where ideas are shared, so we can learn from others going through the same process.

We can do things at our pace, as we initiate and set our own targets, which prevents this endeavour from becoming overwhelming. Changing an entire school’s culture on mental health and resilience takes time and we feel truly positive to have actively begun the process.

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