Increasing children’s resilience to mental health issues

Maldon District Council worked on a prototype project to understand the support requirements for school children transitioning from year 6 to year 7. The aim of the project was to identify children who may be going under the radar with unaddressed mental health concerns and would require support in transitioning from primary to secondary school.

The project team worked with schools across Maldon District Council and the third sector to produce a questionnaire to be filled out by year 6 teachers ahead of their students move to secondary school. Children with a score of 12 and below would be identified as at risk of a poor transition and possible mental health challenges. As a result of the scores, additional resources can be better targeted by schools and support agencies to those who need them. An improved flow of information can be provided to families and between primary and secondary schools, to ensure the child’s resilience is strengthened as early on as possible so they have a better transition from year 6 to year 7.

The first of these questionnaires were distributed in March 2020 following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown. The evaluation process is ongoing as the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the schools normal programme of transition to year 7. Initial feedback from one of the secondary schools who embedded the template into their transition paperwork was extremely positive. They were able to fully implement the template and were very pleased with the results and the template itself. For the first time they have been able to identify children who may ‘go under the radar’ using the ‘easy to use’ traffic light system. They said that they will absolutely be using the template moving forward. The schools will be asked to complete an evaluation tool which will capture data and show outcomes achieved. The schools will look to complete these when they return in September/October 2020. The project team are now working with the Mid Essex Childrens Partnership Board for it to be embedded into one of its priorities. From there, it will be taken to the three other Partnership Boards across the county. These boards are a subset from the Essex Childrens Partnership Board, of which is chaired by an Essex County Council Councillor and whom is the deputy portfolio holder of Children and Families for Essex.


[Ben Page] Yes, good morning. My name is Ben Page

[Suzanne Milne] Suzanne Milne

[Emily Fallon] and Emily Fallon.

[Ben] Yes, our initial design time was very broad. When we first started, there was a focus around mental health and reducing suicide rates, particularly in young people. Across the district we were working with a group of organisations who had the same priorities in terms of mental health, and they were all adopted into key documents. But we really didn't know how to tackle it or really because it's such a broad subject., men, women, children. So, there was, unfortunately, a number of suicides in young people across the district mean around July 2018 before that, prior to that. So we worked with Mid Essex CCG Children's Service and obviously Maldon District Council to focus on a collaborative enquiry that particularly focused on the year six to year seven transition period because it was identified as a sort of a key area where actually children were vulnerable and potentially needed evidence to find out a bit more. So, yes, I mean, we moved on to apply for the Design in the Public Sector Programme Ali, who is not in our team but she is here today and we're very lucky to be accepted into the programme. And it was something pretty new amongst Maldon District Council because we had a very traditional project management style.

[Suzanne] So we had more questions. We have questions of how we can reduce suicide rates, how we could support every child, 0 - 19 that might have poor mental health. This was huge, way too broad a challenge that we would not going to meet. So through, obviously, the methodology and the activities that we did, we designed the point of the happy times, we wanted to focus more on the transition between year six and year seven, as we found that this was a huge point in children's lives where they're already struggling and then with this big change as well. It was a good point to start.

[Emily] So, what did we make and what is our product. On the right-hand side, this is the transition template that we made in collaboration with a number of organisations that Ben mentioned. And on the left-hand side, this is the existing template that secondary schools will send out to their primary schools to identify the risk of a child transitioning poorly. But we identified that this existing template didn't capture or assess emotional resilience. And we thought that this was really fundamental to capture and assess. Hence, we made our template, integrated it into the existing template and we aimed to assess emotional resilience into four categories that had already been established. It was a joint study between UCL and Cardiff, so they made the template. We just kind of tweaked it and added our own version. So, it's been mentioned we made this in collaboration with a range of organisations and particularly with one of our main secondary schools. And we pilot tested it with three local primary schools as well. So, the next steps. It has already been sent out to year six teachers by one secondary school, which is great. And over the next few weeks, our second secondary school will be sending it out as well, along with an information template for six teachers and a survey so that we can start to assess the impact and outcomes really of what the transition template has monitored.

[Ben] Yeah. So, from dissemination to decimated. We lost the majority of our team very shortly after finishing the programme. So, for a long period of time it was just Suzanne and me and we sort of trundled along and now we've got a re-established team with a completely different set of skills, so they have a balance of community safety. Sara has particularly good links with local schools and that school transition period. And Emily has joined us from a public health aspect.

[Suzanne] So our other challenge was engaging the two main secondary schools. This was a huge struggle with us to start with. I think trying to get that communication across the right people took a long time. We've had change in head teachers, which has massively helped. So, yeah, that was a really big challenge.

[Ben] So, yeah this is kind of our what is next and our wow moments. So really, I think we had a meeting with all of the secondary schools in the district and they've now stated to us that actually they'd like to come together to have sort of a uniform template, which is fantastic and more than we’d ever wished for.

[Suzanne] And mine was everyone that we, all stakeholders that we present to this template too, we never had really any major negative comments. It was always something that everyone felt quite passionate about as soon as we left. And that was that, we knew we got it right, basically.

[Emily] Yeah, and consequently, our county council, Essex, are keen to roll out the template throughout the county for all secondary schools, which is fantastic.

Contact:, Maldon District Council, Barnardo’s, LGA