Cramlington Learning Village, which last year celebrated record exam results, has now received national recognition for its work to support the mental well-being of both its students and staff.
It is only the sixth North East secondary school to receive the Wellbeing Award for Schools and becomes just the 56th in the UK.
The award is run by Optimus Education, one of the country’s top education providers and part of the Shaw Trust Charity.
Colin Noble, a lead advisor and verifier for the Wellbeing Award who visited the school, said: “I have the pleasure and privilege of observing outstanding practice in schools throughout the north of England, and abroad. Cramlington Learning Village is up there among the best.”
During his assessment, Mr Noble interviewed staff, students and parents. “One of the most effective ways in which any school, any organisation, can promote the emotional wellbeing and positive mental health of the people who work and learn there is to make them feel that they belong,” he said. “Cramlington does that superbly well.”
Zoe Clay, the school’s lead for Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) Education, said: “Our school has always considered emotional development and well-being as an important part of school life. We want to embed a culture that values the happiness and emotional welfare of all our pupils and staff.
“We wanted to develop a strategy for improving the wellbeing of our community in order for us to provide a more holistic approach to education in school.”
That strategy – now recognised through the award – has taken two years to develop and seen Cramlington Learning Village’s students, staff, governors and parents invest a considerable amount of time and resources.
The school has recruited two full-time counsellors for students and staff and one of its teachers has become a mental health first aider for staff.
Students are given time every fortnight to discuss a range of issues – from the dangers of drugs, alcohol, smoking and unhealthy eating to employment prospects – and four Wellbeing Days are held each year.
Speakers visit the school to talk to older teenagers about topics including sexual health, cancer and gambling addiction, and – because of the environment created in the school – students themselves volunteer to speak to their classmates about sensitive or personal subjects.
“They deliver assemblies around how they feel and how their peers can understand them a bit better,” said Ms Clay.
A visually impaired student, for example, talked about his declining vision and how that was going to affect him.
“He wanted to inform his year group about his condition to avoid any awkwardness or questions which might be construed as them being rude or disrespectful. He just wanted to share his personal experience to encourage empathy, understanding and acceptance. He was so brave,” said teacher Lucy Sutton, the acting lead for PSHE.
Recognition of the school’s work to promote well-being has come during Cramlington Learning Village’s 50th year and places it high up on another national league table.
In August it celebrated the best GCSE results in its history with nearly 80% of students achieving at least a Grade 4 in English and Mathematics. The results of three students – who between them were awarded 26 Grade 9s – were amongst the top 750 in the country.