Theory and research that EFS is based on

Part of the foundation of Emotionally Friendly Settings is the concept of resilience. Resilience has been defined as “overcoming adversity, whilst also potentially changing, or even dramatically transforming, (aspects of) that adversity” (Hart et al., 2016).

When we think about resilience it is important to consider the impact of the environment around children and take into account both the internal and external factors. There are many disadvantages or stressors that can have a negative impact upon a child’s life. These are called risk factors. There are also factors that have a positive impact on a child’s well-being. These are called protective or resilience factors. It can be helpful to view resilience as a see-saw, with risks factors on one side and protective factors on the other side. The aim is for risk and protective factors to at least be balanced or hopefully for the risk factors to be outweighed by the protective factors in a child’s life. Through becoming an Emotionally Friendly Setting, settings can act as a protective factor for children and young people and support their emotional wellbeing.

Based on the research regarding what works in supporting mental health in schools, EFS focuses on two overlapping areas which need to be integrated to be effective: promoting social and emotional well-being (also known as a universal approach) and responding to mental health difficulties (also known as a targeted approach) (Weare, 2015)

This was more recently further supported by findings from White at. al (2017)  in their Supporting Mental Health in Schools and Colleges report for the Department for Education. They found the key to successful mental health provision in schools is:

  • Successful mental health provision depends on creating a whole organisational vision and approach to supporting mental health. It needs to be driven forward by a senior lead, along with the support of governors, or an executive board.
  • The relationship between support staff and young people is crucial to build their trust and work effectively together. Staff need to be trained about mental health and to appreciate the benefits of supporting young people. They need access to a diverse range of evidence informed activities and interventions which can be tailored to the needs of students.
  • The government and wider sector could helpfully support schools and colleges by providing: more resources and tools, more training, more funding for specialist services, a directory of local services, a range of tools and activities that have been proven to work, as well as advice about how to monitor and assess progress on these.

These underpin what EFS provides through focussing on a whole school approach and providing information on evidence-based interventions and assessments.

The evidence review as part of Governmental Mental Health Green Paper (December, 2017) identified specific ways in which schools have an important role both in identifying mental health issues at an early stage, and in helping to put in place support for pupils experiencing problems:

  • The school environment is well suited to a graduated approach to children’s mental health, where children at risk can be identified and interventions can be offered to address problems.
  • As the school environment can present triggers for many difficulties (such as social anxiety), it is therefore also a good place to find support to manage them.
  • The school environment is non-stigmatising, making interventions offered in this context more acceptable to children and young people, and their parents

The research highlights the important role that educational settings play in relation to young people’s mental health. Through EFS we are supporting settings to develop their knowledge, skills and confidence so that they can be effective in promoting emotional wellbeing.

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