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Aspen Heights British School Receives Pioneering Mental Health Award

by Eddie Rayner

Aspen Heights British School in Abu Dhabi has received the School Mental Health Award from the Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools, part of Leeds Beckett University. The silver standard certification was awarded to the school based on its outstanding approach to addressing the mental health and wellbeing of its community.

Aspen Heights British School, part of International School Partnership (ISP), provides a wide range of activities to boost the wellbeing of pupils and staff, including a specialist identification and intervention programme for SEND, provision of 1:1 confidential counselling, implementation of social emotional learning lessons for key year groups, a social committee and buddy programme for staff, as well as free yoga lessons for families, with the school Principal, Emma Shanahan.

With wellbeing high up on their list of priorities and values, Aspen Heights British School has a Student, Staff and Family Wellbeing Policy that details available assistance from the school and lists external agencies that can create a positive impact on teaching and learning.

Speaking on the benefits of these various initiatives, Emma Shanahan, Principal of Aspen Heights British School, said: “I am extremely proud that the work of our entire community has been recognised through the School Mental Health Silver Standard Award. This strengthens our resolve to do better for our community. We are excited and motivated to continue supporting our children, staff and families as we develop and grow.”

Highlighting some areas of strength identified in the report from the Centre, Mrs Shanahan shared: “Excelling in the areas of leadership and strategy, staff organisation and culture, and working with parents and carers, were a focal point of the school’s mental health and wellbeing provision. Our pastoral care plan that is in place for students was also identified as a key strength of our school.”

The school was awarded silver standard for its outstanding provisions addressing the mental health and wellbeing of its community

The pastoral care team at Aspen Heights British School has two qualified Adult to Adolescent Mental Health first aiders to support students during any form of mental health crisis. The school also has a school counsellor available on-site to provide psychological counselling services for vulnerable community members by working in a confidential setting to support students, families and school staff. The counsellor also runs monthly sessions and smaller group interventions to improve children’s communication and conflict resolution skills, as well as provides weekly resources to families through the school newsletter. This year Aspen Heights British School has successfully provided internal training to all staff members on how to identify signs of mental health decline in students, as well as tips on how to support their own mental health.

Redah Khan, Counsellor at Aspen Heights British School, said: “Our class teachers and staff members have taken a proactive approach towards challenging the stigma that surrounds mental health by openly speaking about it, and by seeking out information and support systems for themselves and their students. Our teachers have been implementing mindfulness, yoga, stretching, calming corners, deep breathing exercises and various other techniques in their classrooms. These are vital provisions needed to maintain student mental health as they settle back into face-to-face learning after an extended period of being online. I am privileged to be working alongside our staff to bring an added focus to mental health and wellbeing.”

The award was established in 2017 by the Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools, part of Leeds Beckett University, and by social enterprise Minds Ahead.

“Our pastoral care plan that is in place for students was also identified as a key strength of our school”

The Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools aims to strengthen pupils’ mental health by supporting schools to make a positive change at all levels of the UK’s education system, improving students’ outcomes and life chances.

Doctor Steve Burton, Interim Dean of Leeds Beckett’s Carnegie School of Education, said: “Achieving this award is not just recognition of a whole-school approach to mental health; it’s recognition of the school’s commitment to improving the life chances of children and engaging with the wider community including staff and parents/carers.

We’re truly proud to have worked with Aspen Heights British School in this vital work and look forward to further collaboration.”

Nationally, more than one thousand schools have signed up to take part in the mental health award.

Dean Johnstone, founder and CEO of Minds Ahead said: “This award shines a light on the excellent work schools are doing to promote mental health for their community of children and adults.

It is thrilling and humbling to learn about Aspen Heights British School and the many other schools engaged in the quality award process. I’d like to offer my congratulations on this deserved recognition.”

Aspen Heights British School, located in Al Bahya, Abu Dhabi, is a high-quality British International School with a focus on the community and environment.  The school offers the National Curriculum for England to students with a personalised approach. The school has students from Nursery (FS1) to Year 10, with Year 11 opening in the 2022/2023 academic year.

Aspen Heights British School provides a high level of pastoral care and a strong sense of community. Amazing learning is central to everything the school does. The individualized approach ensures that children make remarkable progress and achieve standards that will amaze. Some of the learning environments within the school include a hydroponics greenhouse, animals, bespoke playgrounds, an ICT suite, Astro pitch, 25m pool, multi-sports court and a dance studio.

Aspen Heights British School is part of the International Schools Partnership, a global group of international schools. For more information about the school visit https://ahbs.ae/