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CYM goes national

Change your mind – CYM goes national Wednesday 27th November 2019 was the date for the very first Change Your Mind induction day for secondary schools, where we welcomed eight delegates from six schools as nearby as West Bromwich, and as far afield as Durham

The people you see above are in a range of roles across a range of settings, but all have one common goal: to address the rise in mental ill-health amongst young people through setting up our mental health and wellbeing volunteer programme.

The day began with an introduction by me to the mental health work we have pursued at Queen Mary’s Grammar School since 2016, such as the expansion and training of our pastoral team, our mental health awareness week held each February, and the introduction of a regular visit from a local counsellor with whom any member of staff may make appointments. This, and many other initiatives introduced at QMGS over the past few years, led to us being invited by Ross Morrison McGill to be a case study school for his book Just Great Teaching, published last September, which lists ten issues facing UK schools today and showcases the work of one school in each of the ten chapters. You can see a copy of the book in the photo above, as each school was gifted a copy to take back with them; Queen Mary’s Grammar School is the case study school for Chapter 5 on Student Mental Health, and I consider it an honour to have been interviewed for the book. Below, you can see photographs of me at the book launch for Just Great Teaching back in September:

The induction day then continued by focussing on Change Your Mind specifically: its aims, history, and future. Currently, I can offer you the following numbers to give you a picture of its reach:

Current QMGS CYM team: 30 pupils (up from 11 last year)
Number of Walsall primary schools to be visited in 2019/20: 32 (up from 23 last year)
Number of workshops being delivered: 57 (and counting….only 25 last year!)
Number of Y6 pupils in Walsall to see a QMGS CYM workshop: around 1600 (up by 600 from last year)
Number of CYM UK schools so far: 8 (The aim for 2019/20 was to get just one secondary outside of QMGS to set up the programme…)

So as you can see, Change Your Mind just keeps on growing, hence our hashtag #biggerandbetter for this academic year. Last year’s was #ChangeYourMind1000, to mark reaching our 1000th pupil, but we have now far surpassed that, thanks to more and more schools across Walsall hearing about our work, due in no small part to Walsall School Nurses.

After I had taken the delegates through the details of how to set up the programme, in fact, it was time for Sallyann Sutton, Professional Lead for Walsall School Nurses and a member of SAPHNA (School and Public Health Nurses’ Association), to speak to the delegates about the burgeoning partnership between Change Your Mind and Walsall School Nurses, and how the work of one can support the work of another. New for this academic year is the introduction of parent workshops run by Walsall School Nurses as a follow-up to our pupil ones on the same theme, raising awareness of not only current issues affecting the mental health of our young people, but also of the work of school nurses and how they can support pupils, their parents and schools, in the interest of the best outcomes for all children. I was privileged last week to talk to Sharon White OBE, CEO of SAPHNA, and will reveal further details about how the two organisations will be working together even more in future, but for now, I must simply say that I am indebted to Sallyann and her team for promoting Change Your Mind during their Autumn Term school visits, and wish to thank Sallyann in particular for her endorsement and support of the programme.

After that, it was time to hear from Kamran and Cameron, the two Gold Award pupils from last year who featured in the local press last June after presenting to our 1000th pupil, Lucy. These two were a perfect double act when delivering workshops last year, and on the induction day they surpassed all expectations, speaking maturely and articulately about their experiences with the programme, what they had enjoyed, what they had learned, and the skills they had developed. In fact, the day after this, Kamran travelled to Cardiff University for a series of mini interviews for Medicine, and reported to me afterwards that at several points, he was able to mention Change Your Mind and the experiences it had given him. I am immensely proud of the young men and women at QMGS every single day, but on this occasion even I was astounded by just how perfectly Kamran and Cameron represented their school, and more specifically, this programme. They, along with the other team members past and present, are part of the Change Your Mind story, and have helped shaped the programme into what it is today.

After lunch came what was arguably the main event: the opportunity to see a workshop in action, delivered by Suchir and Yusra of our current Y12 Change Your Mind team. We invited local schools to bring pupils to watch this Digital Detoxing workshop – by far our most popular workshop theme, and always has been – and as I had expected, Suchir and Yusra didn’t let me down. I am very lucky to have a dedicated team of Year 12 pupils this year who go above and beyond to help out at mental health and wellbeing events outside of what is expected for Change Your Mind. In return, they are learning about what it means to be a professional, and how to work with others in this capacity (please see the blog post Why CYM? for more on the benefits of the programme for all involved: https://qmgschangeyourmind.wordpress.com/2019/10/01/why-cym/

The final part of the day saw the delegates receiving their resource folders giving them everything they needed to set up the programme in their own schools. Each school received, alongside their copy of Just Great Teaching, a CYM-branded USB stick with the Change Your Mind handbook and all associated resources and templates needed to run the programme, including a directory of all primary schools within their LEA and contact details for their local school nursing service, a starter pack of stickers to give out to Year 6 pupils on their first couple of visits, and samples of the CYM team badge (worn throughout the year) and the gold, silver and bronze commemorative badges (awarded at the end of the programme). The USB sticks also contain certificates for each school to give out to Y6 pupils (for those schools booking more than one workshop), and gold, silver and bronze award certificates to be given out to the team at the end of the programme. All certificates are personalised with the school’s name and badge, and have been designed by a professional graphic designer.

I am pleased to say that overall, the day was a complete success, and the evaluation forms filled in by the delegates are a testament to this. The schools found that the event was good value for money (£190) considering the amount of information and resources used, and that they were given all of the information they needed to be able to set up the programme. All Change Your Mind secondary schools are now on a mailing list so that I am on hand should they have any queries about the running of the programme, and so I can keep in touch with them regarding updates, as CYM is always evolving. In return, the schools have pledged to promote their CYM work on Twitter, to keep me updated and to help promote the programme more widely.

I intend to run another induction day later this academic year, and will announce the date of this as soon as I can. The format will be the same, but is not the only option for setting up Change Your Mind in your school: I can offer in-house training directly to your pupils (around £400 plus travel expenses) whereby I bring my expertise at having run the programme for over three years and can guide your pupils as they create their workshops, meaning that by the end of the day, they are ready to go out into local primary schools. During the day, I will also show you the Change Your Mind handbook and talk to you about setting up the programme. This is a particularly good option for those schools situated further afield, although please bear in mind that accommodation expenses may need to be covered. However, Durham Johnston school has opted for both the QMGS-based induction and the in-house training day, which allows for a thorough grounding in the running of the programme, which can be implemented year after year.

If you are interested in Change Your Mind training, whether at QMGS or in-house, please e-mail changeyourmind@qmgs.walsall.sch.uk to register your interest and be added to a mailing list so that you can be the first to hear about dates for future training events and have priority access to booking. Although there are no more dates available for in-house training this academic year, I am hoping that many more will be made available in 2020/21 and if you are on the mailing list, I will contact you as soon as I can about this.

Of course, the success of this event is by no means all down to me. I would like to publicly thank all pupils and staff who assisted in setting up and running the event, or by passing on to me their good wishes, kind words and moral support. I am excited to see the work carried out by our seven Change Your Mind secondary schools – Our Lady & St. Chad’s in Wolverhampton, George Salter Academy, Newport Girls’ High, King Edward VI School Stratford, King’s High Warwick, Durham Johnston Comprehensive and Ribston Hall High School in Gloucester – over the course of the next few months, and watching the programme spread even further across the UK.

Sophie McPhee (CYM Programme Developer)

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