Mental Health Awareness Week 2023 – Q&A with Headstart Mental Health Transformation Officer

Earlier this week, as part of Mental Health Awareness Week, we announced the expansion of our Headstart programme across the North West of England.

Headstart, which has supported almost a thousand pupils since it began with the milestone transition from primary to secondary school will be delivered by a further seven EFL Club Community Organisations (CCOs)

The 11 CCOs will work in schools, providing one to one or group support, in either a classroom environment or delivering sessions, like yoga and mindfulness, through dedicated Mental Health Transformation Officers.

Meet Rachel Walker, one of the first Mental Health Transformation Officers in post, making a big difference already in her area. We caught up with the Fleetwood Town Community Trust team member…

How did you hear about this new role?

I saw this role advertised online whilst I was completing my Masters degree in Child and Adolescent Mental Health and Wellbeing. As I was already working with this age group at a local youth club, I felt it was the perfect role for me to apply for to support with their transition to secondary school.

  What type of sessions do you deliver in schools?

There are a variety of sessions included to ensure the children are learning different methods to support their wellbeing. So far, I have delivered sessions such as mindfulness, creativity, physical activity (yoga) and player visits. I also then deliver one-to-one sessions with specific children which aims to offer a safe space with interventions involving anxiety, anger and coping strategies.

 Why are they important for young people?

These sessions are important for young people because it allows them to see that mental health is normal. The majority of the children are Fleetwood Town FC fans so for me to be wearing the Club’s badge, discussing mental health and ways to enhance wellbeing is really important for them.

How are the young people and schools responding to your sessions?

The young people and the schools are responding really well to the sessions. The children are always excited to have me back as we learn about different mental health topics and coping strategies. The schools have received some great feedback about the benefit of these sessions, especially in how I will follow these Year 6 children to Year 7. In turn, this offers a familiar face from their primary school, who they know can continue this support whilst they settle in and transition to secondary school. The young people and the schools are reporting back that the children are acknowledging ways to cope with their feelings and often say ‘we have done this with Rachel’.

Headstart makes expansive headway in North West

Thousands of Year 6 pupils across the North West of England, making the transition into secondary school, will benefit from a mental health programme involving several EFL Club Community Organisations (CCOs).

Since 2022, the EFL Trust and four CCOs have supported dozens of schools and hundreds of pupils across Lancashire and South Cumbria via a pilot project called Headstart, thanks to funding from Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Charity after successfully applying for an NHS Charities Together Grant.

The EFL charitable arm is delighted to announce, during Mental Health Awareness Week (15th – 21st May), the programme – which has supported almost a thousand pupils since it began – will be delivered by a further seven charities.

The CCOs will work in schools, providing one to one or group support, in either a classroom environment or delivering sessions, like yoga and mindfulness.

Fleetwood Town Community Trust, Preston North End Community and Education Trust, Morecambe FC Community Sports and Accrington Stanley Community Trust each have a Mental Health Transformation Officer, all of whom aim to reduce strain on the NHS by targeting those children currently accessing or are at risk of needing to access children’s mental health services.

Blackpool FC Community Trust, Blackburn Rovers Community Trust and Burnley FC In The Community have joined the Lancashire cohort of CCOs delivering the programme.

In addition, Bolton Wanderers In The Community, Foundation 92, Rochdale AFC Community Trust and Wigan Athletic Community Trust have come on board thanks to funding and support from Greater Manchester Integrated Care Partnership, GreaterSport and local authorities; Trafford Council, Wigan Council and Bolton Council.

In 2020, one in six (16.0%) children aged 5 to 16 years were identified as having a probable mental disorder, increasing from one in nine (10.8%) in 2017.

Adrian Bradley, Head of Health & Wellbeing at the EFL Trust said:

“Our Club Community Organisations are well connected within schools across their communities, and we’ve seen some wonderful and impactful examples during our pilot year of delivering the programme.

“We’re delighted that we’ve received further funding for more Club Community Organisations to deliver this programme across Lancashire and Greater Manchester, and reach and support as many children as possible, making that milestone transition in their lives from primary to secondary school.”

Caption: ITV Football visited Larkholme Primary School in Fleetwood to witness EFL Trust Headstart Programme delivered Fleetwood Town Community Trust.