10 February, 2017 - Minister Bruton hosts Regional Forum in Cork on Wellbeing in Education

The Minister for Education & Skills Mr. Richard Bruton T.D. today hosted a regional consultation with education partners focussing on the topic of Wellbeing in Education in St. Brogan’s College, Kilbrogan, Bandon, Co. Cork

The event is one of a series of regional fora being hosted by Minister Bruton. The purpose of the series of meetings is to outline the Government's Action for Education and to detail the steps we are taking to make Ireland the best education and training system in Europe within a decade.

This model of town hall style meeting is built on a successful series of meetings which the Minister held each year during his time as Minister for Jobs.

Today’s event raised elements relevant to pupil wellbeing and mental health for discussion, and feedback.  It was attended by over seventy representatives of the education community including teachers, pupils, parents, support services and the broader health and social services community concerned with the area of Wellbeing.

The forum was presented with the main elements of the Action Plan for Education 2016-19 which was followed by a moderated discussion between the audience and a panel of experts in the field. 

The focus of the action plan in supporting Wellbeing in schools includes:

  • To support all schools in implementing the national wellbeing guidelines for schools
  • To rollout Wellbeing as an area of learning in Junior Cycle to all schools in the 2017/18 school year
  • To appoint an additional 65 NEPS psychologists
  • To restore guidance provision for all post primary schools
  • To expand the Department’s ‘Friends’ and ‘Incredible Years’ programmes to all DEIS schools

Speaking at the forum in Bandon, Minister Bruton said: “One of the priorities of the Action Plan for Education, which aims to make Ireland’s education and training service the best in Europe within a decade, is to promote wellbeing. Schools, while not the only players in the area, have an important role in promoting wellbeing. I have set out objectives and proposed actions specifically targeting the promotion of wellbeing in our school communities.  Today I want to share those actions and objectives with you and I would encourage you to let us know what you think.”

Ends.

Notes to Editors

The Panel responding to audience feedback was as follows:

Richard Bruton T.D.-Minister for Education

Panel:

Dr Ella Arensman, Professor and Director National Suicide Research Foundation UCC

Margaret Grogan - Regional Director NEPS, National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) with responsibility for Wellbeing/Mental Health

Betty Mc Laughlin, Guidance Counsellor, Head of Well-being Team JCT, out-going president IGC

Sinead Glennon, Head of Mental Health Services

Chair:Dr Feargal O Neill, Regional Director, NEPS Mid-Munster

Notes to Editor:

Overview of Department of Education and Skills approach to promoting positive mental health

  • The Department of Education and Skills promotes a comprehensive and whole-school approach in schools to the promotion of positive mental health focusing on the entire school community, as well as groups and individual young people with identified need.  This spans the curriculum in schools, whole-school ethos, quality of teaching, learning and assessment, student support and pastoral care, guidance counselling and the provision of professional development for teachers.  It also involves accessing other supports such as educational psychology services.  Additionally, schools engage in a wide range of sport and cultural activities which provide an important opportunity for students to experience success and personal growth. The whole staff shares responsibility for general student wellbeing.
  • TheWellbeing in Post Primary Schools Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention (2013) and Wellbeing in Primary Schools Guidelines for Mental HealthPromotion (2015) provide a Framework for schools to present in an integrated way the existing elements of good practice to promote positive mental health, and direct then to new practices as appropriate.   They provide clear information for schools and for agencies supporting schools on how to address issues of mental health promotion. The European wide HSE supported, Health Promoting School Process (HSP) is also outlined, and the Wellbeing Guidelines show how the HSP can be introduced to schools to complement existing good practice. The Guidelines outline how schools support young people through early intervention and prevention, modelled on the NEPS Continuum of Support tiered approach.

Key Messages in the Guidelines:

  • Mental health promotion is a shared responsibility of the whole school community.
  • Mental health and Wellbeing are critical to success in school and in life.
  • Schools play a vital role in providing a protective environment for young people which can counter risk factors.   
  • Having a whole school approach which fosters important links with the wider school community, and agencies which support schools, is key to successful implementation
  • The content of the documents is not new.  Existing elements of practice already expected of schools are integrated in the document as follows:
  • Whole school focus on implementing the Social Personal and Health Education/Relationships and Sexuality Education  curriculum
  • Formulation of the Whole-school Guidance Plan in post primary schools including implementation of the NEPS Continuum of Support 
  • School Self-Evaluation  process
  • HSE Health Promoting School Process
  • Critical Incident policy and plan
  • Student Support Teams

DES Support Services for Schools

A range of services for professional development for teachers are provided by the DES which has a role in the promotion of Wellbeing and mental health.  The services provide support at the level of whole school and classroom, support for some and support for a few.  Continuing professional development is provided to primary and post-primary schools through the following services and supports:

  • The National Educational Psychological  Service (NEPS) 
  • Guidance Counselling service/provision 
  • The National Behaviour Support Service (NBSS)  
  • The Special Education Support Service (SESS)
  • Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) Wellbeing Team
  • Junior Cycle for Teachers (JCT) 

Currents Developments - Promoting Mental Health in Education

Action Plan for Education 2016-2019: The Department of Education and Skills Strategy Statement was launched by Minister Richard Bruton in September 2016. The Strategy statement sets out a number of objectives and proposed actions specifically targeting the promotion of wellbeing in our school communities. These include:

  • Commencing, as resources permit, a national programme to support all schools to implement the Wellbeing in Post Primary Schools Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion and SuicidePrevention (2013) and Wellbeing in Primary Schools Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion (2015)
  • Implementing the new Junior Certificate area of learning entitled Wellbeing
  • Extending the Friendsand Incredible years Teacher Classroom Management Programmes to all DEIS schools
  • Increasing the capacity of NEPS by 65 educational psychologists to deliver an enhanced educational psychological service to schools
  • Enhancing Guidance Counselling at second level
  • Undertaking an assessment of the supports to schools in areas of mental health and wellbeing with a view to providing an enhanced and better integrated service
  • Working closely with the Department of Health and others departments on the National Task Force on Youth Mental Health