Leeds primary becomes first official mental health friendly school in city

Westgate Primary School celebrating.
Westgate Primary School celebrating.
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A Leeds school has become the first in the city to be officially recognised as mental health-friendly after being given the stamp of approval from health bosses.

Westgate Primary School, in Otley, has passed the MindMate Champions accreditation, which assesses schools on their wellbeing policies for children’s mental health, emotions and self-esteem.

MindMate, run by the council, NHS and Leeds charities, is believed to be the first programme of its kind in the country. The praise for the school comes nine months after the YEP first launched our #SpeakYourMind campaign – in which we have been calling on people across the city to help raise awareness and tackle stigma surround mental health.

Headteacher Helen Carpenter 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 award helps us to stand up and say, ‘This is important to us and for children.’”

She urged other schools to take part in the programme and said supporting children’s mental health was “crucial”. MindMate assessors found that the Otley school, which has more than 200 pupils, put pupil wellbeing “at the heart of its policies”.

Leaders organised initiatives like a ‘Nurture Room’ - where children can go for support on emotional, friendship or self-esteem issues.

The school also put a peer support scheme in place in the playground, to help children resolve disagreements with their peers. Dr Jane Mischenko, commissioning lead for children and maternity services at NHS Leeds South & East CCG, said: “We are delighted to be highlighting the good work that Westgate Primary are doing to support their pupils.”

Almost 350 schools, education facilities and children’s centres in Leeds have signed up to the MindMate programme - more than half of the 593 who can take part in the city.

Eight other education centres in Leeds have now also achieved the accreditation.

City leading the way with mental health strategies in schools

MindMate Champions is open to all publicly-funded primary and secondary schools in Leeds, as well as children’s centres and specialist inclusion units.

Dr Mischenko said health bosses in the city were “immensely proud” of the programme, and that other councils had made approaches about setting up similar schemes.

Schools that sign up receive access to free training for staff and MindMate lessons, and a curriculum designed uniquely for Leeds, which is aimed at Key Stages one to four.

Dr Mischenko said: “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.”

MindMate lessons follow themes including ‘family and friends’ and ‘feeling good, being me’ and there are also modules on mindfulness and unsafe relationships