Keele psychologist helps shape government policy on mental wellbeing in schools

A Keele academic is helping to shape Government policy around children’s mental wellbeing following a recent visit to Parliament.

Dr Julie Hulme, Reader in Psychology at Keele University, recently attended an All Party Parliamentary Group for Psychology at Westminster to influence Government policy on promoting mental health and wellbeing in schools.

Dr Hulme is part of an expert group, organised by the British Psychological Society (BPS), which has produced a briefing paper aimed at encouraging the Department for Education and Ofsted to adopt a psychologically-informed approach to improving mental health support available for children and teachers.

According to the briefing, one in every eight children and young people has a diagnosable mental ill health condition, and many more may be experiencing stress.

Dr Hulme said: “It was fantastic to see parliamentarians and policymakers expressing genuine concern about children and young people’s mental health. Mental ill health is a barrier to learning and impacts on children’s education.

“I hope that our work will help to deliver improved support in schools and colleges, for teachers, as well as for the children in their classes. In particular, I am hopeful that teachers will be given more training on mental health as part of their initial teacher training.”

The briefing paper to which Dr Hulme has contributed calls on ministers to recognise the complexity of issues concerning children’s mental health and wellbeing, urging a “whole school approach” to creating a positive and supportive school environment.

The report also highlights a need to move away from a model which sees children and young people as responsible for their own wellbeing, emphasising a need to identify those most at risk whether they ask for help or not.

The paper also suggests closer collaboration and communication between the different agencies and services involved in providing mental health support.

Dr Hulme, who is also co-chair of the Keele Institute for Innovation and Teaching Excellence THiNK Network, added that similar approaches are also required at university, saying: “Young people with mental ill health often find the transition to university challenging, and do not know how to access support in a new educational environment. Improving support will help students to thrive and to succeed at university, and beyond into graduate employment.”