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Creation of a Multipurpose Online Mental Health/Wellbeing Resource and Assessment Platform for Schools

Leads: Dr Helena Tuomainen (Youth Mental Health), Dr Paul Patterson (Birmingham Women's and Children's NHS Hospital Trust), Dr Angela Noufaily (Meths)

The team are working with potential users to develop content, design and functionality of the platform.

Dates: June 2020 - May 2021

Background:

Schools are the ideal setting for early identification of mental health problems in children and young people, for the implementation of mental health related interventions, and promoting wellbeing. However, engaging schools in this type of activity is challenging. Better guidance and tools are needed to facilitate engagement of schools, and to improve data collection and screening for monitoring and research purposes. The CLAHRC team developed the SchoolSpace platform for collection of wellbeing data to support monitoring in Coventry schools. We are now enhancing the platform, to better support monitoring and research activities in schools across West Midlands. SchoolSpace is linked to the development of a Teachers’ wellbeing information website and a strategic element with direct links to services. Both feed into a single point of digital access for trusted information and helpful resources for positive mental health and wellbeing in schools.

Policy and Practice Partners:

SchoolSapce and the associated Teachers’ website are based on partnership and stakeholders that span the NHS, Public Health, Higher Education, Third Sector, Local Government and Commercial Sector, all with the goal of creating the digital mental health infrastructure for the future: Forward thinking Birmingham, Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham & Solihull Mental Health NHS Trust, Birmingham Community Healthcare Trust, Aston University, Coventry City Council, Birmingham City Council, Birmingham Education Partnership, Catalyst4Change, St Matthews Research School Birmingham, eSterling.

Co-Funding Partners:

Forward thinking Birmingham, Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham & Solihull Mental Health NHS Trust, Birmingham Community Healthcare Trust, Coventry City Council, Birmingham City Council

Aims and Objectives:

  1. Review recent CLAHRC experience in the West Midlands and elsewhere in the UK to delineate strategic issues, challenges and solutions in engaging schools, teachers, and pupils in school-based mental health interventions and research. Findings will be written up as a guidance document for ARCs, CRNs, charities and other organisations engaged in school mental health research.
  2. Explore with schools and key stakeholders in the West Midlands (including head teachers, governors, public health) best ways to develop and promote SchoolSpace as a monitoring, research and evaluation platform.
  3. Refine and promote SchoolSpace as the go-to platform for school based mental health and wellbeing research and evaluation in Coventry and Birmingham.
  4. Lay a foundation for collaborative schools and early years research facilitation strategy in Birmingham and the wider West Midlands region.
  5. By working alongside key stakeholders to create a single point of digital access for trusted information, and helpful resources for positive mental health and wellbeing.

Methods:

  1. We will explore via online interviews with members of two Clinical Research Networks regarding their experiences and needs regarding school-based research; collate experiences from local (and other) CLAHRC/ARC teams regarding involving schools in mental health-related research/activities; and gain feedback from schools that participated in SchoolSpace in Coventry.
  2. We will explore views of schools and other key stakeholders on how to develop/upgrade SchoolSpace as a digital platform for collecting (and displaying) wellbeing and other mental health related information. Due to COVID-19 lockdown and social distancing measures, we are conducting further online interviews, rather than two stakeholder events as originally planned.
  3. We will develop a new SchoolSpace prototype according to above feedback and suggestions. We will also involve Warwick Ventures about securing the future of SchoolSpace and involve Coventry City Council and Birmingham City Council in discussions about contributing to funding of SchoolSpace over the following 12 months and beyond.
  4. We will develop a short series of educational / training films (x3) to help increase awareness understanding and ability of staff & stakeholder organisations to engage with research and evaluation.
  5. In collaboration (co-production) with key stakeholders we will develop a single point of online access for easily accessible and trusted resources that will help teachers support the mental health and wellbeing of their students.

Main Results:

The project is ongoing. COVID-19 slowed wellbeing data collection in Coventry schools in spring 2020, but Birmingham City Council has expressed interest in using the platform for monitoring wellbeing in schools. We have interviewed a range of researchers and stakeholders, and further interviews are lined up. We will use a national cross ARC event to collect further relevant information for the guidance document. We have held regular meetings with eSterling, the original developers of SchoolSpace, and identified potential new features of the platform. Discussions have been held with Warwick Ventures regarding the future of SchoolSpace and the associated Teachers’ website. One hundred schools in Birmingham will start using SchoolSpace in spring 2021, more the following year. The Teachers' resource will go live in spring 2021. An ARC WM PhD student began work on the project in January 2021, with a focus on the design, implementation and evaluation of digital strategies for youth mental health in school and educational settings. An overall website (Breatheeducation) is being developed that will host the SchoolSpace platform, the Teachers’ resource and the strategic element enabling early help.

Conclusions:

Our aim is for SchoolSpace and the associated Teachers’ resource to become the go-to platform for primary and secondary schools/academies for monitoring, collecting and distributing mental health/wellbeing and other mental health related information in the West Midlands and beyond. The wider website (Breatheeducation) will also enable early help for children and young people who need it. Despite difficulties associated with COVID-19, we have made good progress in the project to achieve this aim.

Implications for Implementation:

The SchoolSpace assessment platform will facilitate regular collection of standardised wellbeing data from primary and secondary schools. In the first instance, Birmingham City Council Educational Psychology Department (BCCEPD) and Birmingham Education Partnership (BEP) have signed up for gathering general wellbeing data from Birmingham’s mainstream school population. All data will be from pupils currently at key stage 2 (7-11 yrs olds) enrolled in either state-maintained or academy schools. Coventry City Council Educational Psychology Service have approached the research team to implement the same in Coventry schools.