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Tolworth Girls' School leading the way on mental health

It's the start of the new school year, and pupils are understandably stressed about friendship squabbles and exams.

But what happens when this becomes too much to deal with, and pupils begin to experience panic attacks or self-harm?

A school in Kingston is leading the way by encouraging pupils to develop resilience and learn to manage their stress and anxiety.

Tolworth Girls’ School started working with the NHS last year to identify where they needed to take action about their pupils’ mental health, sharing information with partners Tiffin Girls, the Hollyfield School, Grand Avenue, Christ Church, Dysart and Coombe Boys.

Headteacher Siobhán Lowe said Tolworth Girls used the slogan “resilience not reliance” to help students self-manage their mental health and reduce the number of pupils who will be moved to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

Mrs Lowe said recently she has seen a “huge increase” in issues around mental health at school, and blames social media for fueling arguments.

Tolworth Girls has a ‘no-mobile-phone’ policy and encourages pupils to accept that it is normal for not everybody to like you, or not to get invited to things, and discuss issues with teachers or school’s four student support workers if they are struggling.

These support workers also run chill out clubs, as well as exam anxiety and friendship groups to help pupils manage problems that may affect their mental health. Posters around the school also aim to engage teenagers by using the language they understand.

But the school is careful to emphasise that all teenagers will experience stress and anxiety at some point, and is working with parents to help them understand when normal teenage issues are becoming a problem.
The school is currently developing a digital platform that will act as a gateway for parents and children to access support online from next year.

Speaking at Kingston’s Health and Wellbeing Board on Tuesday (September 3), Iona Lidington, director of public health in the borough said that children and young people and mental health are the borough’s two highest priority areas and that Kingston had been successful in securing funding for them through its partnership strategies.

Kingston College will also receive support to improve its mental health provision for students from January 2020.

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