KidsMatter Primary is a mental health and wellbeing framework for primary schools and is proven to make a positive difference to the lives of Australian children. KidsMatter Primary provides the methods, tools and support to help schools work with parents and carers, health services and the wider community, to nurture happy, balanced kids. This initiative will be commencing at Kelmscott Primary School in 2016.
The role of schools in improving children’s mental health and wellbeing
Schools, with the full support of families and the community, are currently one of the best places to comprehensively support children’s mental health and wellbeing for the following reasons:
• School is the most significant developmental context (after family) for primary school-aged children, with almost all children attending school at some time in their lives.
• Through their role in supporting children’s learning, schools play a crucial role in building children’s self esteem and sense of competence. On the other hand, when children’s learning and wellbeing needs are not met at school, their overall development and mental health may be undermined.
• Schools can act as a safety net and assist in protecting children from circumstances that affect their learning, development and wellbeing.
• School mental health programs are shown to be effective in improving students’ learning and emotional wellbeing and in treating mental health difficulties.
• When teachers and school staff are actively involved in comprehensive mental health programs, the interventions can reach generations of children.
• School-based interventions can provide students with experiences to strengthen their ability to cope with environmental stresses and help them to feel supported.
The KidsMatter Primary framework
1. Guiding Principles: These principles underpin the development of the initiative and its successful implementation in schools. The development of the principles has been informed by research as well as the experiences of schools undertaking KidsMatter Primary to date. The principles are not only foundational, but provide checking points for schools to review their progress throughout implementation. In this way, they serve as a navigation aid during the journey.
2. Core components: The four components known to have a positive impact on children’s mental health are:
a. Positive school community
b. Social and emotional learning for students
c. Working with parents and carers
d. Helping children with mental health difficulties.
The selection of these four components has been informed by current evidence and expert opinion on the factors that most infl uence children’s mental health and wellbeing. There is a particular focus on the factors schools can influence. Target areas and goals are provided under each component to help guide schools to take action in these areas.
3. Whole-school approach: It is now well understood that effective interventions in schools occur when all school community members (staff, parents and carers, health and community agencies) are consulted and collaborative partnerships are developed. This is particularly the case when addressing children’s mental health because of the significant influences of the family and community as well as the school. A wholeschool approach involves the school community systematically reviewing school practice across each of the four KidsMatter components. The review identifies strengths and challenges, and incorporates strategies into a mental health and wellbeing strategic plan. This plan sits within the school’s broader strategic plan as part of the ongoing review and improvement processes.