Otumoetai Intermediate students express through dance what it feels like to be left out. Left to right: Freya Schulz, Maya Stone, Hannah Jaxon, Astrid Parlane and Dianne Galorio.

Some students in Tauranga will now have access to specialist mental health support at school as part of a health funded pilot focused on building children’s resilience and general wellbeing.

Nine schools in Otumoetai have formed a Community of Learning/Kāhui Ako; an initiative established by the Ministry of Education to raise student achievement from early childhood through to tertiary education by encouraging a more joined-up approach to learning.

There are 210 Communities of Learning across New Zealand, including 14 in the Bay of Plenty. Each community sets its own priorities, in Otumoetai, the top priority is student wellbeing.

Otumoetai lead principal Henk Popping said: “Collectively our schools had noticed a trend with students coming through the schooling system lacking resilience.

“This initiative, focused on student wellbeing, is about building the resilience of children at an earlier age – in those early childhood years.

“We want our children to believe in themselves. Backing themselves or having that ‘grit’ has a positive impact on their learning.”

As part of the three-year pilot, two staff from the Bay of Plenty District Health Board’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health service will be based at one of the schools.

Evidence shows that easy to access mental health services, available on-site, leads to students having improved mental wellbeing, increased engagement in learning and higher educational achievement.

Child & Adolescent Mental Health clinical co-ordinator Nicola Chadwick said: “By having mental health practitioners based within the school, they are in a better position to recognise issues students may be struggling with and connect them to the right support early on, before their wellbeing deteriorates further.”

She said the mental health practitioners will also be able to support and empower teachers and the wider school community to have the confidence to manage the mental health and wellbeing of students.

“Although the pilot has only just begun, I would envisage group therapy sessions for students focused on teaching them coping skills would also be offered at school.”

Source: Bay of Plenty Times

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