Embracing Transformative Leadership to create a mentally healthier and high performing school
Increasing mental health problems amongst children and young people1 is having a detrimental impact on students (and their teachers2). In response Government have promised £1.4 bn to tackle the growing mental health crisis in our schools, outlining their plans in a Green Paper3.
Much of this investment though, is to provide practical support measures such as training a Mental Health Champion4 in each state funded secondary school in England (with plans to extend this to primary schools in the not too distant future). In fact, almost all the measures proposed in the green paper aim to deal with specific presenting mental health needs.
Whilst these initiatives are vital in supporting recovery, they do little to address the underlying causes or reduce the risk of others succumbing to the same issues. This may well explain why, despite a growing focus on mental health in schools; the number of young people being affected shows little sign of reducing! And it isn’t good enough.
So What Then?
What is needed then is a broad based and cultural approach. A good start will be for schools to adopt the ‘whole school approach’ and make use of the information and resources available from Mentally Healthy Schools5. However, even this isn’t enough to fully address the underlying issues. No matter how good and wide reaching the support provision, the only way to truly reverse the current trend of increasingly poor well being levels in our schools is to identify and remove the causative factors.
Embracing Transformative Leadership (TL) will enable schools to achieve the level of systemic change6 required to instil a culture of equity, inclusion, excellence and social justice that truly supports the well being of students, teachers and schools’ wider communities.
Identify and Break Down The Barriers
Transformative leadership identifies and breaks down the barriers7 that marginalise some students to provide the foundation for a rich and supportive learning environment within a deeply democratic community. Not only does this lead to greater academic achievement for all students, it also grounds them with a valuable and vital mix of personal, social and life skills.
Having this positive experience of education will enable a sense of self-worth and social awareness, and the ability to develop the resilience8 required to sustain their positive mental health and well being throughout childhood, adolescence and into adulthood.
Transformative Leadership works because at its’ heart it is driven by leaders with a combination of self-awareness and a deep sense of purpose to improve the life of others. It is that sense of purpose that enables transformative leaders to engage others in the process of creative collaboration required to achieve the vision of a school community that promotes both social equality and academic excellence.
TL doesn’t replace the need for appropriate, targeted mental health support provision in schools, nor does it change things overnight; it requires time and commitment, but the benefits it brings are worth working for.
For more information: Transformative Leadership9: Working for Equity in Diverse Contexts, provides a deeper insight of TL in education settings but, however you choose to begin your TL journey; you will be on the way to having a truly mentally healthy school!
If you missed any of the previous articles in this series, you can begin reading them links to article 1
1 Mental Health Foundation
2 Education Support Partnership: Teacher Wellbeing Index 2018
3 Department of Health and Department for Education joint green paper
4 Mental Health First Aid England; DHSC Youth MHFA in Schools Programme
5 Mentally Healthy Schools
6 London Funders
7 Success at School (.org)
8 Association for Young People’s Health
9 Carolyn M Shields
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