Staff and pupils are celebrating at Herne Bay Junior School after being awarded Gold status, the highest accolade achievable, by the Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools.

The school undertook the award following the work they were doing to promote mental health and wellbeing within their curriculum. Headteacher, Melody Kingman, explained, "Having recognised a link between those with a healthy and positive self-image and improved social and academic outcomes, it became a priority for us to focus upon promoting mental health and wellbeing in order to better prepare our young people for the challenges of their teenage years and subsequent adult lives."

To provide a framework to focus the journey, the school embarked on the award in 2018 achieving Silver status in May 2019. They were encouraged by the awarding body to continue with their valuable work leading them to be recognised with the Gold award in December 2020. Mrs Kingman described the achievement as "a huge tribute and recognition of the importance of mental health and wellbeing as a way of life within our school."

Examples of ways in which positive mental health is being supported include 1:1 counselling, nurture groups, daily mindfulness and wellbeing sessions. Teachers are also supported with regular supervision sessions led by the school’s counsellor and Director of Mental Health and Wellbeing, Hollie Edwards.

One key supporter who recognises the vital role Herne Bay Junior School play in promoting positive mental health is Claire Murdoch MBE, Mental Health Director for NHS England. In a letter to uphold the school’s application for the award she explained, "I was invited to visit Herne Bay Junior School in September 2019 and I’m so glad that I accepted the invitation as what I saw and the people that I met were creative, committed and absolutely exceptional."

Since achieving the Gold award, the school has continued to promote positive mental health within their school community. Opportunities to further develop their work include the engagement of two Emotional Wellbeing Practitioners who will carry out vital support work with parents. There are also plans for the school to develop a supervision training programme for schools, alongside Charlie Waller Trust. Mrs Edwards explains, "I am eager to continue working with other organisations and schools nationally, or even internationally. I truly believe that we must work together collectively to improve the mental health outcomes for all of our children in a world that demands more of us year-on-year. Children must be supported, and taught how to support themselves, in order for them to meet these growing demands and retain positive mental health."