Collaborative Approaches to Improve Mental Health in Schools


A conference summary

The first joint conference between The Royal College of Psychiatrists in Wales and NAHT Cymru, the school leaders’ union in Wales was held in Cardiff on 14 December at the All Nations Centre. 

‘There has been growing recognition that mental health and emotional wellbeing in schools is of paramount importance, both in terms of academic progress / wider achievement as well as for the long-term benefits for our children and young people as they grow into the adults of tomorrow. One of the greatest challenges, thus far, has been getting the various ‘experts’ from health and education in the same room to begin the conversation about how to improve collaboration for everyone’s benefit.
The ‘Mind Over Matter’ report from the Welsh Assembly Children, Young People and Education committee showed that there was actually great resonance between the views of schools and the views of mental health practitioners – we know what the issues are. We know that children and young people face challenges, but we also know that there are fundamental things that, together, we can work on that will improve the current situation.

If we are serious about reducing the stigma associated with poor mental health, improving all our understanding about mental health issues and being better at recognising how to support children and young people in schools when they face mental health issues – both in-house and when needing to engage with specialist services – we have to continue the conversation, continue providing the platform for schools, health, social care and the wider ‘community’ to meet together and continue holding such joint events more regularly because this must be the start of building practical solutions to the challenges we all face.’

Rob Williams – Director, NAHT Cymru


Rob Williams NAHT Cymru

It has long been recognised that there is a link between the mental health and wellbeing of young people and the impact it can have upon their education. There are many professionals who are working in various capacities with children within school setting, all of whom directly or indirectly can be a source of support to children throughout their time at school. The Collaborative Approaches to Mental Health conference was designed with this as its core focus.

The event, chaired by Rob Williams, NAHT Cymru’s Director of Policy, and Professor Alka Ahuja, Public Engagement Lead, RCPsych Wales / Consultant Child and adolescent Psychiatrist, ABUHB, was attended by over 80 professionals from across Wales. It included a day of informative, engaging and interactive workshops for all attendees, presented by representatives of some of Wales’ leading organisations including The Samaritans, Action for Children, Training in Mind, plus other professionals who are leading the way with their pioneering work within schools.

Young Peoples Debate

A major highlight of the day was the fantastic Schools debate held by eight Schools from across the Newport area. The debate entitled ‘This house believes that good exam results are critical to success’ and attended by 100 young people. Certificates were given awarded to participants in categories of best speaker and best team.

RCPsych in Wales Debate Presentations


We were also privileged to have Professor Tamsin Ford of Exeter University in attendance, who delivered the keynote lecture ‘Why we should focus on mental health in schools’.


With regards to delegates, we offered a selection of eight workshops to choose from, facilitated by the various organisations listed below. Where available we have enclosed the workshop for you to download if would like a personal copy.

Arrow Project

Presented by Professor Andy McCann - Co-Director DNA Definitive / Visiting Professor Manchester Met University; and

Dr Ceri Evans - Consultant Psychiatrist, Cwm Taf Health Board / Senior Lecturer, Cardiff University School of Medicine


'Resilience is not a personality trait, nor is it about ‘bouncing back’ after adversity. Rather, it is a multi-faceted capability underpinned by key and complimentary perspectives and behaviours. This workshop will introduce the Baker’s Dozen Toolkit, a range of evidence based approaches to resilience, and highlight some key strategies for the maintenance and further development of psychological resilience.'


Further information on the toolkit 

Sarah Stone - Executive Director, Samaritans Cymru

Presentation from Samaritans Cymru 

 Presented by the 'Guide Project' team, Action for Children

 Further information on Action for Children 

Presented by Dr James Cording – Educational Psychologist / Education Lead, Emotional Wellbeing in Schools Improvement Project; and

Bethan Williams – Emotional Wellbeing in Schools Improvement Project


Presented by Jonathan Wood - Head of Service, Place2Be; and

Professor Tamsin Ford - Exeter University


Presentation from Place2Be 

Further information on Place2Be 


Presented by Steve Rees – Headteacher, Evenlode Primary School & Mental Health First Aid Instructor

Dr Kavitha Pasunuru – Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, ABUHB


Further information on Training in Mind 


Presented by Dr Anne Marie McKigney – Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychologist, CARIAD, Tertiary, Neurodevelopmental Service, ABUHB; and

Emma Carver – Assistant Headteacher, Ysgol Y Deri outreach service for pupils with autism and neurodevelopmental difficulties

'The mental health and well-being of our children and young people is paramount and should be everybody’s business. Teachers and other school staff are well placed in supporting resilience and emotional well-being among children and young people. Training in emotional and mental health awareness is extremely necessary for everyone who cares, volunteers or works with children and young people. This awareness and training will help tackle issues of stigma, promote good mental health and enable a healthier and happier society for our children and young people'

Professor Alka Ahuja - Public Engagement Lead, RCPsych in Wales

Next steps

The ‘Collaborative Approaches’ conference was a huge success, with 92% of delegates attending rating it as a good/excellent event. As a result of such positive feedback, from 2019 we will be developing new ideas around the conference and establishing it as a permanent fixture within our annual calendar.