Homewood School: using the Resilience Toolkit to develop a whole school approach

The school’s story

Homewood School have been a part of the HeadStart Kent programme. This is a National Lottery Community Funded initiative looking at building resilience and emotional wellbeing across school communities. The school started their wellbeing journey by completing the Resilience Toolkit and have since achieved the Kent School Award for Resilience and Emotional Wellbeing in 2019. The following case study shows examples of how the school embedded their whole school approach.

How did you approach the first chapter of the Resilience Toolkit and bring together your Resilience Team?

We drew on our existing Student Team to ensure a good representation of staff from across the school, including the Assistant Principal. We met and completed the first activity of the Resilience Toolkit as a group to analyse our school’s current context and provision of support. The toolkit helped us look at the support we have in place and where we can improve or fill gaps in a structured way. Those gaps then formed our Action Plan.

How has your school’s leadership and management been involved throughout the Resilience Toolkit process?

Our Assistant Principal has been involved and very supportive from the start. She has been a part of meetings and completed workshops with us when the HeadStart team came in to look at our whole school approach to resilience and emotional wellbeing. A school Mental Health and Wellbeing Policy has since been developed and is published on our school website.

How has teaching and learning been considered in building a resilient school community?

Our PSHRE coordinator has developed a programme of study for all key stages which have an increased focus on resilience and youth mental health. Staff are trained to deliver these sessions so that they are knowledgeable and familiar with the resources. We have reviewed the learning opportunities available through clubs and classes before and after school as well as during lunch time. We have started using mindfulness with groups of students and alternative curriculum, e.g. farm/agriculture schooling is available for targeted students. Inclusion is evident in lessons and recognised as part of lesson observations.

How did the Resilience Toolkit improve opportunities for student voice within your school?

The Toolkit allowed us to identify that we wanted to set up a Speak Out group for students, which has run ever since. Students are more aware of support available to them and want to support each other more. Training the students, for example as peer mentors and young evaluators, has given them the confidence to do this. We also included in our action plan for students to have the opportunity to carry out projects of their own. Groups of students have since successfully delivered various Pay it Forward projects to benefit others in their community.

Did you consider how best to develop staff in their knowledge and understanding of resilience and wellbeing, including their own wellbeing?

After completing the Toolkit activities, we could see that we wanted to increase staff confidence in supporting our young people better. The action plan was a great tool to help move things forward. Members of staff have since received training on having Resilience Conversations, Building Resilience, Mindfulness, Youth Mental Health First Aid, Suicide Awareness and Prevention and training on working with CiC affected by trauma. We carried out a staff survey to gather feedback and continued with termly staff wellbeing sessions, including sessions on mindfulness, yoga, cross country walking, 6 ways to wellbeing, stress management and Chinese Five Elements. We also recognise staff with ‘Made a Difference’ / Outstanding Achievement Awards.

What changed as a result of considering pupils’ needs and the impact of interventions?

We introduced the Resilience Conversation and Self-Reflection tools with students, and it is now an expectation for staff to use this tool for students referred to our Student Review Team. This has enabled us to get a clearer overview of what is happening in that young person’s life and put appropriate support in place. We were also able to reflect on the different roles and teams that exist within the school to support wellbeing and ensure consistency. We use the Wellbeing Measurement Framework report to monitor systemic changes across the school community. With HeadStart, we started to train peer mentors across different year groups, which has been beneficial for both mentors and mentees. Some sixth formers have even trained up year 5s at one of our local feeder primary schools. We established an interventions spreadsheet to integrate the data we have on different support options inside and outside of school.

How did the Resilience Toolkit prompt you to include parents and carers in building a resilient school?

The Toolkit prompted us to consider our parent/carer demographic. We identified the need to make information on resilience and wellbeing more accessible, so we have developed a wellbeing section on our school website, which signposts parents to how best to support their child during the school year. There are also tips on how to support their own wellbeing and where to go for further support, if required. We also now ensure that appropriate associate staff are available at parents’ and information evenings so that there is the opportunity to discuss their child’s wellbeing as well as an academic focus.

How have you developed the way you collaborate with external agencies in accessing appropriate services for young people?

We have extended the number of external agencies we work (e.g. School Health, Barnardo’s, Salus, Kooth, The BeYou Project, etc.). We are also members of the countywide Schools Mental Health Network, which has introduced us to wellbeing resources and services available for young people. We ensure that we liaise with external agencies following interventions with students so that their progress or challenges are fed back. FLO meetings provide opportunity to share information on external agencies. We have set up information sharing of domestic incidents between the Safeguarding Team and Kent Police/HeadStart, as well as reviewing our work with Integrated Children’s Services following the introduction of support levels. We collaborate with the Education Engagement Officer for any targeted work with students of gypsy, roma and traveller backgrounds. We have established a personalised reintegration programme for school refusers and liaise KCC for students no longer on role who are Electively Home Educated.

How do you ensure your school environment maintains a focus on resilience and emotional wellbeing?

In our action plan we identified the need for an additional safe space for students, so we set up the Wellbeing Room, which is now used for peer mentors, interventions and mindfulness as well as drop-ins. In addition, we ensure students and staff are aware of the College offices, sensory garden, the Hub for SEND students, the Snug for students with EAL and CiC as safe spaces. Students have also been involved in updating display boards to demonstrate a culture of speaking about emotions, difference and resilience. We also have relevant policies linking with wellbeing, approved at a strategic level and publicly available on our school website, including our Anti-bullying Policy, Mental Health and Wellbeing Policy, Equality Policy, Accessibility Policy, Dignity at Work Policy, Student Development Policy, Safeguarding Policy, etc.

We have refreshed school notice boards and assemblies are used to celebrate diversity and opportunities across the school, e.g. posters for The BeYou Project (LGBTQ+ support).

How will you continue to build on and sustain the positive steps you have made towards ensuring a whole school approach to wellbeing?

We were delighted to be recognised with the Kent School Award for Resilience and Emotional Wellbeing and now wish to continue to the work we have set up across the school community.

The peer mentoring training is now part of the KS5 scheme of work for professional and personal development so all year 12 students will have the opportunity to be trained and mentor our younger students.

We will continue to review our policies and procedures and the impact it is having on our students and staff. Building on the work of our SpeakOut group, we will continue to ensure students have a voice on what their needs are.

What were the challenges or barriers in completing the toolkit and how did you address them?

Time was a massive challenge – trying to get the Resilience Team together at the same time proved to be virtually impossible. As our Student Team met weekly our Wellbeing Coordinator joined this team and ‘wellbeing’ was added to the agenda for regular updates. The team were able to drive initiatives through the whole school.