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Understanding children’s mental health for a better tomorrow

​​Teign School students taking the ChildrenCount Wellbeing Survey
Thousands of students across South Devon and Torbay are taking part in a first-of-its-kind survey to measure the mental health and wellbeing of schoolchildren.

About 6,000 students have taken the ChildrenCount Wellbeing Survey so far, answering questions about antisocial behaviour, substance misuse, anxiety or depression, and relationships with family and friends.

The survey, commissioned by South Devon and Torbay Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), is part of a wider initiative aimed at redesigning the mental health system for adults and young people, ensuring that services meet their needs.

Dr Keira Goss, the CCG’s clinical lead for maternity, children and young people, said: “We’re really excited about this survey. Nothing like it has been done in South Devon and Torbay before.

“The survey is voluntary, responses will remain anonymous, there are no right or wrong answers, and all the information we receive will inform our mental health strategy for the foreseeable future.

“It is part of a strategy of long-term thinking rather than quick decisions, with the aim of changing people’s lives for the better for years to come.”

Students from Teign School are among those taking part in the survey. When the results are collated the school will be able to better understand its students’ needs and wellbeing, as well as having insights into improvement planning for young people.

Lucie Wagner, head of house at Teign School, said: “There are many factors currently affecting young people and their ability to access education. It is widely accepted that one of those factors is mental health and emotional wellbeing.

“At Teign School we believe that attention to students as individuals is essential in producing successful and confident young adults.

“As part of this we recognise that emotional resilience is key, and that students progress better when they feel listened to and are given the tools and skills to navigate the challenges and pressures within their lives.

“To meet their needs effectively, however, it is essential to gain a deeper insight into the areas that may affect their emotional wellbeing. Which is why we were delighted to take part in this survey.

“It is our intention that the data produced from the results of this survey directly influences our practices within the school, and that programmes and interventions are put into place to address any areas of need identified.

“It has been a positive experience, and we are looking forward to taking the next steps in implementing an action plan based on the findings produced.”

Abigail Fisher, a Year 7 student at the school, said she and her friends were pleased to be taking part in research that will make a difference now and in the future.

She added: “I found the survey really interesting and some of the questions really made me think. I felt like I could answer honestly because it was confidential.

“It was a new experience to have to think hard about how healthy you really are. I think the purpose of the survey was to get more information about your feelings and to see if there is any help needed.

“I think it’s important that students feel they are listened to, because if they go through a hard time they might not show it but they will be feeling it inside and might not know how to deal with it. They might need someone to talk to. It’s nice to know that teachers want to help.”

The CCG commissioned Dartington Social Research Unit to undertake the survey, as well as the wider system redesign work, with support from Torbay Council and Devon County Council.