One term into his new role as headteacher of Benfield School in Walker, Richard Carr has wasted no time in listening to feedback from the school’s ‘student voice’ which is leading to further investment in the wellbeing of students and staff.

At a time when it has been widely reported that Britain’s schoolchildren are suffering from an epidemic of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts – yet many are unsuccessful at getting the help they need – Benfield School, which educates students aged 11 to 18 and is part of the Newcastle East mixed Multi Academy Trust (NEAT), sees investment in mental health as a priority.

Since Mr Carr’s arrival, a new attendance officer has been appointed to help students and their families address the issues that affect attendance together with a KS4 intervention and support mentor to ease the transition of students returning to school after a long period of absence.

Benfield already deploys a wide range of mental health strategies in order to support both staff and students including access to a school nurse and a newly appointed school student counsellor over three days per week, the training of domestic violence champions and the tracking of all student learning in relation to mental health across the year, which ensures that students have age appropriate exposure to external support.  Benfield is also in advanced stages of applying to achieve the Mental Health Charter Mark.

Commenting on the school’s response, Mr Carr said:

“Benfield School is not alone in recognising the growing problems faced by today’s children in terms of mental health issues, so I am keen to improve the holistic experience for both young people and teaching staff. A lot of the problems faced by young people are brought into school by students and we have a duty of care to provide support in any way we can.

“By achieving the Mental Health Charter Mark in the future, we aim to be recognised as a centre of excellence.  Benfield School is very much a hub of the community, so any improvements we can make within our school will filter out to our feeder primaries, parents, carers and the wider community and we hope, create a better standard of health for all.

“This is a fantastic community and Benfield is a school with massive potential and a bright future.  I am a big believer in retaining talent within the region and we must do our utmost to show students that the North East region is a great place to develop a career.  Key to this is to make sure that the learning environment is safe, friendly and conducive to learning.  If students are happy at school and feel they are always fully supported, then they will fulfil their potential.”

In taking up his new post, Richard Carr has returned to the area of the city where he has spent most of his teaching career, embarking on his first teaching role at Walker Technology College where he worked for six years, before moving to Burnside Business and Enterprise College for a further ten years. More recently he was headteacher at a Sunderland academy.

With a proven track record of school improvement, his other priorities for Benfield School include improving educational outcomes, improving attendance, improving the quality of teaching and learning across the school and expanding sixth form provision.