The country’s first school-led commission into the mental health of pupils will have its inaugural sitting in the North East of England today.

The commission, titled Healthy MindED, brings together a representative group of school leaders along with influential practitioners working within and alongside the education system to consider how best to tackle growing problems with children’s emotional wellbeing.

It was created and co-ordinated by SCHOOLS NorthEast, the region’s network of schools, as a response to growing concerns from school leaders in the North East at the lack of expert knowledge available to schools to efficiently deal with their pupils’ issues related to mental health.

Professor Dame Sue Bailey will be co-chairing the Commission alongside 15-year-old Steffi Ellison, Head Girl at High Tunstall College of Science in Hartlepool.

The newly appointed members (in alphabetical order) are:

  • Kate Chisholm, Head Teacher at Skerne Park Academy, Darlington
  • Hilary Ellam, Senior Manager at the National College of Teaching and Learning
  • Dr Lynne Howey, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust and Children and Young People’s Mental Health Clinical Lead at Northern England Strategic Clinical Networks
  • Colin Lofthouse, Head Teacher at Rickleton Primary School, Washington
  • Dr Peter Mulholland, Senior Educational Psychologist and Team Manager for the Emotional Wellbeing and Effective Learning Service at Durham County Council
  • Maura Regan, CEO of Carmel Education Trust, Darlington, Stockton & Billingham
  • Lynn Watson, Head of Teaching School at Percy Hedley School, Newcastle & North Tyneside
  • Steve Wilkinson, Executive Head Teacher at Monkwearmouth Academy, South Tyneside

The shortage of support for schools was recognised at national level recently, with the Prime Minister’s announcement at the beginning of the month that secondary schools will receive free mental health first aid training for their staff.

Professor Dame Sue Bailey said: “It is an honour to be asked to chair, what will be a timely and important piece of work.  I look forward to working with SCHOOLS NorthEast and the Commissioners to collectively produce recommendations and actions that will not just be useful in the North East of England, but across the country as well.”

Mike Parker, Director of SCHOOLS NorthEast said: “The Commission was our response to growing concerns around schools’ ability and capacity to support young people in effectively dealing with mental health related issues.

“It is vital that schools develop a joint approach in tackling these problems and we believe Healthy MindED will bring together the right balance of professionals to map a more effective approach to dealing with mental health issues in education.

“The goal is to deliver a body of evidence and a strategic approach aimed at halting and reversing the horrific rise in pupils being treated for mental health issues.”

The Commission will hold open sessions later this year during which it will gather evidence from schools as well as regional and national organisations.

SCHOOLS NorthEast will also be holding a conference on mental health in schools – linked to the work of the Commission – in early June.

Professor Dame Sue Bailey was formally announced as Chair of the Commission at the SCHOOLS NorthEast Annual Summit in October 2016 and also chairs the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition.