Achieving Mentally Healthy Schools: Transformative Leadership: Principles ‘3’ & ‘4’ and their part in achieving mentally healthy schools
Let’s look at two more of eight underpinning principles of Transformative Leadership (TL), again in the context of how it can help improve the mental health landscape in our schools. Before we start though; a reminder that it is important to understand the synergies between all the principles and the need to adopt and embed them concurrently not in isolation. Hence, calling them 3rd and 4th here is merely a numbering convention, not an indication of hierarchical importance.
Let’s begin with the 3rd principle which states that TL must: “address the inequitable distribution of power”. In practice this means identifying the decision makers and the level of power and sway they have in the decision-making process. It is about questioning whether decisions and/or actions taken lead to benefits for some whilst disadvantaging others. It’s about understanding whose opinions are heard and whose are ignored or silenced.
It is about recognising the ability of those in power to exert control to further their own needs and wants whilst failing, consciously or subconsciously, to account for the equally important needs and wants of others.
To put this into a mental health context; it is well documented that children with poor mental health will often exhibit persistently challenging behaviour1. This in turn often results in them being ‘excluded’ as a way of ‘removing’ the problem for the benefit of the teacher or others in the class. What it doesn’t do, however, is address the underlying issues that cause the challenging behaviour; nor does it help the child change those behaviours or improve their capacity to engage2 appropriately in future. Thus, whilst exclusion might bring temporary relief, it offers no long-term solutions for any of those involved.
The 3rd principle then is designed to ensure that ‘power’ is distributed more equitably so that everyone has an equal opportunity to be heard and have their needs considered as part of the process that governs cultural and structural decision making within the school, leading to more productive and beneficial outcomes for all.
This links completely to the 4th principle: “emphasise both private and public good”. Put simply this is about ensuring that the opportunities provided in school deliver both individual and collective benefit.
In the context of young people’s mental health; whilst having, for example, school counselling3 services available for individuals is proven to be an effective support method; consideration should be given to ensure that all young people, regardless of their current mental health status, should be supported to maintain their wellbeing.
This doesn’t mean that everyone has to have individual meetings with a counsellor! It is more that the school uses the knowledge it gains from individual cases to implement activities and initiatives that take an early intervention, preventative measures approach4. This will ensure all students have the best opportunity to sustain good mental health and wellbeing and enjoy the associated educational benefits.
The embedding of this, alongside the other TL principles, will help overcome the negative impact of poor mental health on learning ability resulting in more productive teaching environments and, over time, a reduction in achievement gaps5.
1 The Centre for Mental Health
2 Public Health England Briefing Paper
3 Mentally Healthy Schools
4 The Conversation
5 Health Scotland Evidence Summary
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