Happy Valentines!

Blog by Lisa Fathers, Director of Teaching School & Partnerships

Love is about social connection, kindness, empathy and as we celebrate Valentine’s Day we reflect on how we can facilitate those things at school level and across the TSA.

heartSchools are challenging, relentless, day after day teachers are giving 100% to the school they work in. Every class or form is different, different personalities, different behaviour, varied learning needs, individual targets, differentiated schemes of work and this is without even thinking about evening work load or that lesson observation that might be looming in the future…….

So, yes teachers have to be resilient but school leaders have to be sensible, supportive and place staff wellbeing at the heart of every decision. Teachers & Support Staff are without a doubt the best resource in school and we have to role model ‘putting our own oxygen mask on first’. The Alliance for Learning Teaching School has been supporting schools develop their wellbeing offer whilst providing quality CPD. Teachers do one of the most valuable jobs in our society –yet we know retention data in our profession is alarming. At the ‘Alliance for Learning SCITT’ ( School Centered Initial Teacher Training) we not only ensure all our trainees complete MHFA (Mental Health First Aid) but we actually go and deliver this at cost to lots of other ITT providers too because fundamentally we believe it is as crucial for our new teachers, as learning classroom management techniques.

Whole school approaches……It is essential that schools have a wellbeing strategy and that specialist CPD like ‘Mental Health First Aid’ and ‘Mindfulness’ fits into that. At Cedar Mount Academy in Gorton they have been making full use of the teaching school offer whilst leading from the front with all sorts of wellbeing initiatives. You may have seen the school featured on BBC Breakfast TV last week.

With our GM Mentally Healthy Schools Programme in partnership with Youth Sport Trust, Place 2Be, 42nd Street and of course driven by Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership we have been encouraging staff to talk openly about & celebrate mental health and wellbeing every single week.

The wellbeing approach is not a soft option though and it allows staff and students to be their best. At BFET we believe that children get one shot at school and it is vital that they receive the highest quality experiences & teaching to equip them for life and their next steps in education, training & employment. We have created a Mental Health policy and we have a real commitment to Coaching in our schools. We have at least five Mental Health First Aiders in every BFET school trained through the Alliance for Learning.

Essentially, leaders lead well, teachers teach best and learners learn best when all feel supported and wanted within their school. ON VALENTINES DAY WE URGE YOU TO CHOOSE LOVE AND LEAD WITH COMPASSION.






How physical fitness and immersion in the wilderness promotes mental wellbeing in young people

Blog written for the Outward Bound Trust

Lisa Fathers is Director of Teaching Schools and Partnerships for Bright Futures Educational Trust based in Greater Manchester. As it is the start of Place2Be’s Children’s Mental Health Week, here Lisa explains some of the interventions she has put in place to promote the mental and physical health of her pupils.


Mental health is as important as physical health.

Thankfully within the education arena the mental health and wellbeing of young people has become increasingly recognised as just as important as physical health. A wide variety of recent independent and government funded reports and research on this subject suggest a growth in the rates of mental illness in young people in our society today. I believe mental and physical health are intrinsically linked. The more we encourage pupils to be active, the more robust, resilient and engaged they become.

At BFET we have been involved with the GM Mentally Healthy Schools Programme and as Youth Sport Trust Members we have really encouraged self-care. Our commitment to Mental Health First Aid has underpinned all this too.

The recently published Sport England Active Lives and Young People Survey presented data for children and young people in school years 1-11 (ages 5-16) in England for the academic year 2017/18. To explain, current Government guidelines set out that children and young people should get 30 minutes of their daily physical activity during the school day and 30 minutes outside of school. The report found that just over one third of the 130,000 pupils who took part in the survey do less than an average 30 minutes a day.

Long before this report was published, we introduced an initiative within GM called The Daily Mile in which our pupils do just this. They walk, jog and even skip a mile during their school day. I firmly believe this not only helps foster and encourage an awareness of the benefits of physical activity to our pupils but also helps their mental well-being. Greater Sport, the Youth Sport Trust and the Daily Mile work in partnership along with the GM Head teacher Alliance for PE, Sport and Health and this really helps to ensure a joined up approach to strategy.

The Youth Sport Trust supports and encourages schools and teachers to place more emphasis on maximising the impact of PE and Sport and encourages schools to improve the quality of physical activities they do.

A stronger focus on wellness

As a strong advocate of the principle that prevention is better than cure, I’d encourage all teachers to adopt more initiatives that encourage physical activity and mental agility. Health Education England’s principle that a stronger focus should be placed on wellness rather than illness strongly resonates with me. This principle is embedded into their social prescribing work and needs to be front of mind as we help our young people to navigate the often stressful waters of academic pressure and the shifting expectations that society places upon them.


To enable the benefits of social prescribing to be utilised within schools and beyond, The New Economics Foundation (NEF) Five Ways to Wellbeing (2008) is the perfect tool. NEF’s Five Ways to Wellbeing was developed as part of the government’s Foresight Project on mental capital and wellbeing. The five evidenced based activities are: Connect; Be Active; Take Notice; Keep Learning; and Give.

These activities are in perfect synergy with the work that I’ve done for many years with The Outward Bound Trust and their residential experiential learning programmes my pupils attend.

Connect: relates to social relationships and connecting to peers and adults as this is critical for promoting wellbeing. Within a residential setting this activity happens as Outward Bound® instructors guide pupils and teachers to engage in a wide variety of outdoor activities together in teams.

Take Notice: encourages everyone to have an awareness of their surrounding and to pay attention to the present moment, others and the world around them. This enhances self-understanding and allows young people to make positive choices based on their own values and motivations. I’ve witnessed this often when a school group reaches a mountain summit and the instructor encourages pupils to breathe deeply, enjoy the view, and notice how far they have walked or climbed.

Keep Learning: a mantra embraced by all teachers, this is specific to setting goals in either formal or informal learning environments and increases self-esteem and social interaction. In an outdoor learning environment setting goals or tasks for teams really engages pupils. I’ve seen the benefits that raft building has on students as they grapple with wood planks and plastic barrels to create their end goal of a vessel that will float and carry the group across a lake.

Be Active: regular exercise is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety. Every day at Outward Bound sees all participants do activities such as swim, jog, walk, canoe, climb and scramble in stunning wilderness environments.

Give: this encourages students to be actively social and part of a group or community. Giving, helping and sharing with others is proven to engender feelings of happiness, self-worth and positive life satisfaction. This can be as simply as carrying a backpack for a member of their group who is struggling to get up a mountain or as complex as a community engagement programme where the whole school plants flower beds in a nursing home.

Whatever interventions you choose to actively engage with at your school, be it the Daily Mile or an annual outdoor residential programme at Outward Bound or a combination of the many options available both within and out of the school environments I’d urge you to set these up.

The benefits are multiple, long lasting and far reaching and will have a positive impact on the mental and physical health of our next generation. Nothing makes you feel quite as good as getting outside so this week get up, get out and enjoy!

Take a look at our free Mental Health and Wellbeing taster courses to find out more about how Outward Bound could help your school.

I Like Solving Problems

“I like solving problems-it makes me feel like a superhero” Penny 5 years

Supporting children to develop key mathematical skills & attitudes in the Early Years.



I have recently been lucky enough to deliver a session at the Alliance for Learning Teaching School Early Years conference. The day was a real celebration of Early Years with ideas, research & strategies being shared, debated & discussed.

This is an overview of my session which Alliance for Learning have kindly agreed for me to share with the Nexus Education community.

The aims of the session included:

  • How to develop a positive maths identity in the Early Years
  • Developing effective adult-child interactions to support & challenge early mathematicians
  • What do we mean by critical thinking in maths teaching & learning?

The session started with sharing quotes from children regarding their views on maths.

“I don’t like maths as I have to sit on the carpet for too long”

“I think it’s hard as all the numbers get jumbled up in my head.”

“Maths is too much answer time & not enough learning time”

“I think I would rather play with the cars or the dinosaurs”

Quite telling…children are very good at telling it like it is. Already these children are developing opinions and habits of mind about maths.]These habits of mind are already negative and potentially could be a barrier to them moving forward in their learning; especially if this is an engrained long lasting memory.

Quotes were then shared from grown ups about their feelings about maths.

“I have always been rubbish at maths”

“What’s the point of pi or knowing about isosceles triangles?”

“I just couldn’t make any sense of it. It didn’t seem relevant to me or when I grew up.”

“I think I decided that at an early age maths wasn’t for me. I have managed ok without an O level in it so far.”


Unpicking these quotes shows a sense of almost acceptance that maths isn’t for them and they had resigned themselves to this situation.

One of these quotes is actually from me- the 3rd-one-it is a true reflection of how maths lessons left me feeling. I needed to see the relevance in maths for me to buy into it, for me to be able to know how everything I was being taught fitted together. It all felt very separate; in distinctly individual compartments, with a clear focus on recall & barking out answers.

My question here at the conference was if this was the feeling shared at home & comments like this were part of the language of maths, what were the children brining in with them into your setting or school?

Influential in this area of maths identity is from Jo Boaler. In her book ‘The Elephant in the Classroom- Helping Children Learn to love maths’, Boaler has found that a poor maths identity can develop as early as 2 years of age with observations showing children moving away from activities where there is a right or wrong answer AND instead preferring to take part in much more creative, open ended activities which allow a sense of exploration, trail and error and creativity.

From 2! We all know how difficult it is that it is much harder to undo a learnt response.

Influential in Boaler’s work is the research of Carol Dweck; particularly about Dweck’s views on fixed and growth mindsets. The reason for including Dweck’s research within this session was to explore how a positive attitude to maths acts as a driver towards feeling that you CAN and whether this ultimately means that you WILL achieve.

Think of children you support- what are the ones like who are successful at maths. What are the ones who find maths a struggle like?

Do those who succeed at maths know how to apply their key maths skills in a range of experiences? Do they keep going, adapt and modify approaches when their first attempts didn’t satisfy? Do they understand the power of mathematical language in helping them shape their emerging understanding of maths content?

How does their positive attitude make a difference to their maths learning?

Do the children who find maths more difficult have a more narrow window of trial and error; relying on a limited number of strategies? Do they seek out a greater level of adult support to provide different strategies and ways of problem solving? Do they also have a sense of ‘I can’t do it’ when faced with a new problem?

Perhaps if we focus on these drives and attitudes rather than just providing them with more of the same (i.e. content), would this be a way in for children to improve their maths learning?

Consider what this means for us at out level-are you more inclined to be totally engaged in something if you have a glimmer of a slight chance of succeeding and the feelings which happen as a result of that achievement, rather than taking part in something where you haven’t felt those feelings before?

Jo Baler summed up this view perfectly ““Teachers need to offer mathematics as a learning subject not a performance subject.”

Jo Boaler ‘The Elephant in the Classroom’ (2017)

Just this slight shift in how maths is viewed and therefore communicate to the children may be the extra push for some children to see the enjoyment of being involved in maths learning.

Different suggestions of how can we create a positive maths identity for your youngest children were then shared.


Ideas included:

  • Be a positive role model ourselves: We all bring memories and experiences about our own subject knowledge and confidence. This may be positive which is great as your natural enthusiasm will shine through and enthuse your children about maths. But it may not be as positive-it may even be extremely negative- like mine. I can still remember the feeling of not keeping up with the rapid fire mental maths test at my primary school. This experience still leaves me with a feeling of panic, despondency & impending failing. If this is an engrained emotion, there is even more importance, I would argue, to make sure that others never feel like that. That they develop & maintain a positive view of maths exploration as an opportunity to learn. Enable children to see the magic in maths and by doing that you may also rediscover some of the magic for yourself.
  • Be conscious of making connections for children: Connectivity is vital as a motivator for children to not only learn the maths content you are sharing with them but also to helps children feel propelled into applying their knowledge. Relevance plays a key role here. Like most things, children need to appreciate ‘what’s in it for them’. Will this enrich their lives, deepen their sense of exploration & feel emotionally satisfied in what they are doing. That content, satisfied feeling in your tummy.
  • Acknowledge that for some children maths is a journey (with no sat nav!): the maths journey is full of roadside information, possible wrong turnings and occasional pit stops whilst children are immersed in new information, then come to terms with it , apply and modify. For some children this journey will be quite direct where they soak up the new information and then are able to use this alongside their secure dispositions & attitudes to learn deeper & move forward. For many children they will be times that they need to stop & revisit, maybe even take a different route to ensure learning is deeply assimilated. Having this close collaboration between the what they are learning and how they are learning ensures that all children reach their own destination, refreshed & ready for what meets them next.
  • Excite, enthuse & inspire: consider how you do this for your children. A lot of this will already be developed and communicated through the ethos that you nurture within your room but also consider the role of the environment in this ethos. When planning perhaps ask yourself, “Where’s the maths?” in my environment. Does it move pass the purely aesthetic which is important to initially engage children but des it also allow for possibility thinking, creativity, exploration and challenge? Are you using your key mathematical manipulatives with an understanding of the mathematical potential within them? Perhaps scan your environment for a pattern of maths enjoyment as well as maths content. Can you also see alongside the potential for maths content, the opportunity for children to use their maths characteristics also?
  • Be brave to go with the children: one of the most exciting parts of being in Early Years is the way children can completely surprise you! Children can come up with a million more times more imaginative, amazing maths ideas then adults can think of. Whilst planning has a place within teaching and learning (recording the thought process in a written form for example), consider all events within your daily routine as potential opportunities for maths content learning and maths skills learning. These could be the incidental and spontaneous times but may also include routine times such as snack time, welcome and goodbye time. Edit your planning, scribble on it, celebrate the bits which worked well and equally those which took an unexpected direction. Planning which looks like it is used to inform how support can best meet the needs of the children is a priceless document, regardless of its less than pristine appearance.
  • Keep learning & reflecting: have a thirst for knowledge yourself. Keep discovering, finding out form other professionals. Reflect on what you have read and listened to with the aim of using this information to redefine your own pedagogy. This may happen in a variety of ways: collaborative discussion, modelling opportunities, research into practice, team teaching, an extortionate online account, or social media. As well as developing your own pedagogy continue frequent professional discussions with your Early Years team to ensure that there is a level of consistency of beliefs and how these affect provision.
  • Question, challenge and ponder everyday.


Next, we considered what the role of the adult in supporting the mathematical journey of all children could look like……

The following points were presented as a mini audit; a framework to support reflective and professional discussions.

  1. Understanding of child development (specifically maths): discussed above but needs to be constantly revisited in order to refine ideas and thoughts.
  2. Implementing this understanding into the environment: discussed above but again needs to be part of a reflective on-going cycle of review.
  3. Supporting children through sensitive & authentic conversations: consider the kind of support & interaction you give to your children. Do you explain, for example, new key mathematical vocab so everyone has a clear understanding of what the words mean in order for children to attach them to the actions they are doing? Do you offer a variety of ways for children to communicate their mathematical thoughts & ideas? These could include verbal, non-verbal, early mathematical mark making, pictorial or using concrete materials. How do you move children at the brink of deep learning as well as those who need the additional support to make sense of the maths being shared? Possibility questions are really effective for this “I wonder what…” “How can we…” “Prove it” give children the opportunity to use their knowledge and dispositions in a much less intense way then a closed question which may demand very little thinking and adaptation of knowledge.
  4. Reflection & modification: This builds on the on-going development of your own pedagogy about Early Years maths & one of the ways this can be quite acutely refined is when you put children into the mix! What you may have read about literally comes to life when the principles of research are shared and experienced with your children. Crucial here, I believe is the consideration of how observation of your children happens. Is it interactive observation rather than passive observation. By that I mean, do all adults tune into what their children show, tell and feel about maths by being part of their learning rather than simply observing it? After interactive observation, next to consider is what can be put into place to move their learning forward, deepen their thinking and improve their attitude to maths exploration? Do I need to explicitly model maths learning and content? Do I need to manipulate the environment differently? Do I need to rephrase the language I am using? Do I need to support the child in the undoing of a misconception? Do I need to either plan an adult led activity, an adult initiated challenge activity or a well modelled child initiated activity?

Identify the barrier and consider a range if strategies which include the delivery of maths content trough a characteristics framework.

Next in the session, time was given to exploring critical thinking and it’s importance for securing the drive to learn maths.

Critical and creative thinking need to be embedded in every mathematics lesson. Why? When we embed critical and creative thinking, we transform learning from disjointed, memorisation of facts, to sense-making mathematics. Learning becomes more meaningful and purposeful for students.

……teaching through problem-solving rather than for problem-solving.”

Dr Catherine Attard 2017

Initial discussions on this characteristic highlighted critical thinking as a life skills and its place in maths? Critical thinking is an integral part of the EYFS and is part of the characteristics of effective teaching and learning.

Choosing ways to do things: this talks about supporting children to be able to use their developing and secure mathematical knowledge alongside their capacity to manipulative this knowledge in a range of mathematical problems with secure understanding. For example can they use their knowledge of number binds to 10 to help them understand part part whole representations? Essential here is the development of their drive….their oomph to enquire and find out. How do we do this? Explicitly sharing a range of problems and how they can be tackled may a way to show children what this skill involves. Alongside modelling and thinking aloud gives children the permission to know that this is a useful strategy to organise their thoughts and also enables them to make sense of the language, maths content and desire to keep finding out.

Making links: this element of critical thinking involves supporting children to be able to transfer knowledge into a range of other mathematical activities- adaptation leading to stronger more diverse patterns of connections. For example, can they use their understanding of the relationship between numbers when they are starting to find out about subtraction and addition? If we as adults don’t share these links with them then they may not ae able to make them for themselves and therefore risking a view which looks at maths as a disjointed set of facts or information. Deep secure learning is much more difficult to foster without connectivity.

Having their own ideas: here, we are asking children to solve problems based on prior knowledge. They understand what problem solving is as a tool for learning & are able to choose from their developed range of strategies & ideas to begin to tackle a new problem. This willingness to have a go is based on a level of prediction, connection & confidence. Here collaboration of adult and child ideas and thoughts are instrumental in helping the children build up a bank of strategies. Revisit these strategies frequently to offer reminders and also to modify, add and strengthen. Spend time on this discussion of possibilities, talk through the process of finding out and exploring. The more we do it, the more children will do it.

Revisit the characteristics framework and use this alongside the curriculum subject content when planning. The development of a holistic view of maths, with consideration given to all elements scaffolds all children’s learning potential and ensures that they experience a layered framework which supports, challenges and celebrates.

Final thought of the session:

“What will you do tomorrow to engage, excite & motivate your children?”

Thank you to everyone at Alliance for Learning for giving me this opportunity to share my thoughts. It was exciting to see so many dedicated Early Years practitioners and listen to their own inspiring ideas.



Why middle leadership development is crucial

Blog written by Lisa Fathers, Director of Teaching School & Partnerships for Ambition School Leadership.


Middle leaders are the engine room of the school, you sit at the heart of school improvement.

They lead teams of teachers and turn senior leadership strategy into outstanding classroom practice on a daily basis.

They are a bit ‘closer to the action’ than senior leaders. High-performing middle leaders drive consistent teacher quality in their areas of responsibility through curriculum leadership, data analysis to identify pupil underperformance, lesson observations, holding staff to account, and developing staff.

As school leaders, we occasionally forget that the role of a middle leader is a challenging one. This is why access middle leadership CPD is essential. Whether it’s NPQML or Teaching Leaders, these courses will expose you to leadership thinking and theory. They will challenge your perceptions, and also ensure you network with middle leaders from other schools and colleges, which is absolutely crucial.

At my Teaching School Alliance, The Alliance for Learning, we have been seeing the impact of middle leadership, and genuinely feel it has transformed many of our middle leaders.

Many middle leaders and aspirant senior leaders in our partner schools and trust schools attend these courses as part of their entitlement to ongoing professional development, and the feedback is always excellent.

Here are a few of the things I’ve learned from putting my middle leaders through training programmes:


Some leaders are almost so future-focused, that they don’t ‘nail’ the job-in-hand first.

Whether it’s a department or a pastoral role, ensure your middle leaders understand every bit of the role, lead others well, and are able to have difficult conversations.

Be fiercely loyal to your team, and champion them, but always put the pupils first. Don’t accept mediocrity even if you are in a challenging school: you create your own weather.


Professional development programmes are a great way for middle leaders to learn how to become a good coach. The best way for them to develop themselves and their team is to coach them.

How you talk to yourself is as important as how you talk to others.

I truly believe that coaching gets the best out of people. I’d even consider having a coach yourself – to give yourself time to reflect and refine your ongoing leadership journey.

I’d also recommend reading books that encourage positive voices in your own head, then recommending them to your middle leaders. The Chimp Paradox is a great place to start.


Encourage your middle leaders to show that they are ambitious (sometimes this is harder for women!), because being ambitious is a really positive thing.

Why shouldn’t you want to get on and get up? They should be vocal about where they want to be, but be humble about the support they might need to get there.

Direct them towards stretch projects, such as supporting whole-school initiatives which will expose them to a different world, possibly external stakeholders, and help them start to build new skills.

Always nurture ambition in others too!

Finally, I read some great advice from the CEO of Coca Cola who said, “ Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. They are work, family, health, friends and spirit and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball.  If you drop it, it will bounce back.  But the other four balls – family, health, friends and spirit – are made of glass.  If you drop one of these they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. So, make sure you prioritise the important stuff and achieve a balance”

If you’re considering developing your middle leaders, Teaching Leaders is our flagship development programme and recruitment for the 2019 cohort is now open.

To find out more click here.

What does homelessness and poor housing have to do with schools? ……….Quite a lot actually

As temperatures continue to drop we start dreaming about Christmas dinner, Baileys by the fire & mulled wine! Or maybe that’s just me! For rough sleepers the colder weather marks the start of a gruelling few months of trying to stay alive. Finding a safe, warm place becomes harder and harder. That’s why in Greater Manchester our Mayor Andy Burnham has launched “A Bed Every Night” with the ambition that no one sleeps rough in Greater Manchester.

Six million children in Britain live in housing that is overcrowded, temporary, or run-down. That figure is so huge that those of us without ‘mathematical brains’ like me struggle to comprehend that figure. Some of the children in our classrooms will live in housing that’s making them ill. Many are missing out on school altogether. I often talk about anxiety in my Mental Health work well imagine being shuffled from one place to another………that would make anyone have chronic insecurity which leads to anxiety.

Often homeless children are an invisible group, even child poverty doesn’t always touch us teachers because we don’t see the homes these children live in. We see them arrive at school sometimes without the right bag or pen but we don’t see the huge effort it’s taken for that child just to be in school dressed. They deserve better than this.


  • More foodbanks are being used now than ever before
  • More than one million children live in overcrowded housing.
  • More than 70,000 homeless children in England are living in temporary accommodation & in the NW 10,500 are officially homeless
  • Bad housing has a massive impact on children’s lives, affecting everything from their health and educational achievement, to their emotional well-being and overall life chances:
  • Health: children living in cramped accommodation experience disturbed sleep, poor diet, higher rates of accidents and infectious disease
  • Education: children from homeless households are more likely to suffer from bullying, unhappiness and stigmatisation
  • Emotional well-being: about half of the families taking part in one study conducted by Shelter said their children were frightened, insecure, or worried about the future as a result of their homelessness]
  • Life chances: The health and educational impact of poor housing may affect children’s future job prospects and financial well-being.
  • The impact of all of the above can be fatal if families become homeless or people start sleeping rough.


Primary & Secondary Schools

One thing schools can do is work with children and young people to try and make sure those families are signposted to the right support and also just ‘be the family’ & shelter at school to give them that safe haven. All schools do this and most try their best to:

  • Create supportive, affirming and loving environments where children and young people feel safe, nurtured and supported and they are more likely to talk to you about struggles their parents might be having.
  • Remind staff about how to spot the signs of neglect or or housing instability.
  • Connect students to in-school and community support services. Coordinate with mental and physical health service providers as well as housing agencies to meet the needs of children and their families to the greatest extent practicable.
  • Consider- what may look like lack of attention or concentration may be due to hunger or lack of sleep. Providing free breakfasts club can help ensure nobody goes hungry while trying to learn
  • Volunteer- Many shelters and day centres need volunteer to help, especially over evenings and weekends. Although you have to be over 18 in most cases, perhaps students’ parents or extended families may be interested.
  • You can also volunteer by way of fundraising or donations. For example, schools can make things to help make a house a home for people who have nothing.
  • Make picture frames in woodwork. Wall hangings in art class, healthy and cheap recipe cards in cooking. You could make hygiene packs. These can be made up of roll on deodorant, baby wipes, sanitary products etc for people to use.


More ideas and lists if what’s needed in greater Manchester is updated daily here: 

For 6th forms & colleges

As young people make the transition to adulthood it can be a difficult time, both financially and emotionally. A number of additional factors make this transition more difficult for young people in vulnerable housing situations. Many of the causes of homelessness, such as unemployment, shortage of housing, and family problems, affect young people across the spectrum. However, there are some young people who are more at risk of becoming homeless:

  • care leavers
  • runaways
  • young offenders
  • black and minority ethnic (BME) groups
  • asylum seekers
  • refugees
  • young people from rural areas


This year instead of our traditional Christmas Poetry Competition we are asking our schools both in our Teaching School Alliance @AFLTeachingSch or just schools in GM to write their poems to highlight the issue of homelessness. Please do encourage your students to join in.

One of our judges is Amanda Berriman. Her novel ‘Home’ started life as a short story (‘A Home without Moles’) in ‘Stories for Homes’ – a charity anthology published in 2013 to raise money for Shelter. She intended to leave it as a short story but found her narrator, four and a half year old Jesika, had more to say and her story grew into a novel about the difficulties of raising children in poverty with limited choices and a lack of safety nets. In Home, Jesika lives in a flat with her mother and baby brother and she knows a lot. She knows their flat is high up and the stairs are smelly. She knows she shouldn’t draw on the peeling wallpaper or touch the broken window. And she knows she loves her mummy and baby brother Toby. She does not know that their landlord is threatening to evict them and that Toby’s cough is going to get much worse. Or that Paige, her new best friend, has a secret that will explode their world. ‘Home’ is currently available in hardback and e-book. The paperback is due to be released in February 2019.41NJjPFBmpL__SX309_BO1,204,203,200_


If you want to do more …… please consider donating to:


  • SHELTER who help millions of people a year struggling with bad housing or homelessness –



Did you know that today is World Mental Health DAY (WMHD)?

 1This provides a really good opportunity to get more people talking about mental health and wellbeing in young people and adults.

Why? Because approximately 70% of mental illnesses can be diagnosed before the age of 25, which makes adolescence a critical time for mental health promotion, prevention, early identification and effective treatment of mental illnesses.

In addition to that one in four adults have mental health problems in any one year and in the workplace this prevalence increases to almost one in three employees. This means it’s very likely either you or someone you know has experienced mental health problems this year.

I am excited to be part of the national training team with MHFA England where we seek to make mental health a normal part of everyday conversations; to challenge the stigma associated with mental health and to create a society that is literate in mental health, where we all have the skills to support our own and others’ wellbeing.

We have made huge strides forward and more people are starting to recognise the importance of supporting positive mental health, promoting wellbeing, and ensuring when we experience mental distress or illness we can get swift access to support services we need.

On Monday MHFA colleagues gathered in the Houses of Parliament to ask businesses and politicians to support our call on government to reflect mental health in workplace First Aid regulations. In addition on Monday Natasha Devon MBE and Luciana Berger MP delivered the Where’s Your Head At? Campaign petition to Number 10. Signed by almost 200,000 people, the petition calls on government to ensure every workplace – including schools, colleges and universities – have as many Mental Health First Aiders as they do physical First Aiders.

As you know our Teaching School is a leading provider of mental health training and we have been leading the GM Mentally Healthy Schools Rapid Pilot which is a ground-breaking partnership supported by Jon Rouse.

The GM Mentally Healthy Schools Pilot was a ground-breaking pilot aimed at supporting young people’s mental health and wellbeing. Between March and July 2018 we worked alongside the Youth Sport Trust, Place2Be and 42nd Street to provide a comprehensive package of support to 31 schools across Greater Manchester.

2.jpgThe project embraced a whole system approach combining high quality CPD for leadership teams in schools, ‘Mental Health First Aid’ training for staff and students, using physical activity, life skills and athlete mentors (including former World Thai Boxing Champion Rachael Mackenzie) to year 6 and year 11 students with follow-up targeted student groups and Young Health Ambassadors given the opportunity to shape future provision in their schools.

Please read a blog from one of our partner schools


We are really excited to be able to share that this pilot is being expanded & all the existing 31 schools will continue to have the investment & support by our 4 partners AND another co-hort of schools will be starting phase 1. This is so exciting for our teaching school & of course for the young people in all our schools who will hugely benefit.

What can you do for WMHD?

In support of this year’s theme, MHFA England are excited to launch a new set of resources for young people’s mental health – the #HandsUp4HealthyMinds toolkit. Please click here to access

The toolkit is for anyone who works with or lives with young people aged 8-24 and aims to provide you with a set of bitesize facts and tips on young people’s mental health. It includes:

  • An interactive quiz to test your knowledge about youth mental health
  • Infographic posters – perfect for sharing or printing, covering topics such as how to start a supportive conversation and tips for young people on tackling stress
  • Downloadable PowerPoint slide deck with facts on youth mental health and why it matters
  • A directory of helpful resources and organisations for further support


We hope that schools, colleges, universities and youth organisations will find these tools useful beyond WMHD, both for their own practice and for engaging with parents and young people around the topic of mental health.

Healthy mind, healthy body

In addition, we at the Alliance for Learning genuinely believe in physical activity – health is health and we believe in healthy mind, healthy body. We work closely with YST who are the UK’s leading experts on the power of PE and school sport to deliver whole school positive outcomes to improve attainment, physical and mental wellbeing and inclusion.

We also whole heartedly support the DAILY MILE!

This is one of our own schools Stanley Grove Primary school who have even got over a hundred parents involved in their Daily Mile & the impact has been huge!

Keep talking about wellbeing & mental health & let’s make these topics part of everyday conversations.

Thanks for your support

Lisa Fathers

Director of Teaching School & Partnerships

MHFA National Trainer


Rapid Pilot at ESSA Academy – Assistant Principal Pastoral Lead Chris Airey

IMG_1564We have been lucky enough to be part of the Teaching School Alliance for Learning for a couple of years now. As well as great CPD & fantastic school to school support we have had the opportunity to be part of an innovative Mental Health Rapid Pilot.

I can only describe the pilot and in particular the MHFA training as eye-opening and enlightening. Despite being steeped in the myriad of issues surrounding pastoral care and having a general awareness of Mental Health issues, the staff who underwent the training were amazed at the depth of the issue. We were able to take so much from the training delivered by the Teaching School ‘Alliance for Learning’ a detailed introduction to mental health and really useful statistics & practical advice that we have been able to include in our own training sessions. The billions of pounds lost to mental health issues and workforce absence is astonishing. The MHFA training has focused our Pastoral Team and as a direct result of this training we include mental health specifically in our weekly Pastoral Team meetings. We now have a designated member of staff who is a fully trained counsellor to pick up any concerns or MH issues at an early stage. We feel more confident in identifying MH issues and acting upon them. As a result we reached to and worked with more students via our early intervention unit ‘Ivy Cottage’.

We now have Pastoral Briefings every week where we can discuss MH, alert staff to issues and increase vigilance and awareness around school. This has resulted in a whole school ownership of MH.

We also now include the SEND Team in our weekly meetings due to the training. I feel it has also made us think more about the ‘grey middle’ who don’t always show the more obvious signs of MH problems. In short, it has made us take nothing for granted.

The training also made us look at staff needs and the effects of an incredibly stressful job on us a staff. CPD has been tailored to staff wellbeing with a real drive on Team ESSA. There has been a palpable impact with a staff BBQ and other social events. I really feel there is more of an emphasis on team work and solutions rather than the ‘toxic’ staffroom and culture of complaining that some schools have.

The athlete mentor Neil Danns (former European skateboarding champ!) from Youth Sport Trust also had a huge impact on our students. He was enthusiastic, outgoing and incredibly funny and the students took to him straight away. To have such a streetwise and successful mentor was a real boost to our chosen students. I observed several of the sessions and I saw students confidence growing before my eyes. They were really keen for the follow up sessions to come around. These sessions were a real highlight.

We couldn’t attend the Etihad event because it clashed with our Sports Day. We were disappointed to miss out on this especially when the feedback from the schools that did attend was so positive.

Every element of the pilot working with Place 2 Be, 42nd Street & Youth Sport Trust with the teaching school made a really well blended package for us. I have to say that we, as an Academy, feel that the pilot has been a huge success and we would like to see it continue and develop.