North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College has been commended for its work to support the mental health and wellbeing of its staff and students. It was recognised by the Association of Colleges for meeting the standard to become a Beacon award commended college as part of a national scheme.

The College’s mental health and wellbeing strategy includes an expectation that all staff work towards a mental health qualification, with one fifth having already successfully achieved their certificates. The College has also taken a fresh approach to its disciplinary processes for students taking account of mental health issues through a fitness-to-study evaluation and successfully introducing the innovative practice of restorative justice to help students seek rehabilitation.

The impact of the strategy has included improvements in Action for Happiness survey outcomes across key measures with all students being encouraged to take part. Activities have led to an increase in mental health referrals for students enabling them to access help and support that keeps them on track with their studies.

Marion Plant, OBE FCGI, Principal and Chief Executive of North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College said, “We’re delighted that our work to support mental health and wellbeing has been recognised by the Association of Colleges as part of this prestigious scheme.

“The strategy was devised to emphasise the parity of importance between mental and physical health and we have worked hard to raise the profile of wellbeing across both our student and staff population. It is vitally important to support the development of a work-life balance and promotes an ideal environment for teaching and learning so that students are in the best position to meet their potential and achieve good outcomes when they leave college.

“We have developed new tutorial materials in conjunction with MIND and the Samaritans, trained twenty-five students in the role of peer listener, introduced student support groups including the first college autism support group and organised a ‘Time to Talk Day’ as part of Mental Health Awareness Week.

“For staff, we have introduced training for everyone on the referral process for mental health intervention, developed a programme of awareness raising using the services of a county educational psychologist, set an expectation that all staff will complete a Level 2 Award in Mental Health Awareness, and even devised our own version of Virgin’s Walk the World campaign to promote walking meetings and regular breaks.”

Beacon award assessors endorsed the College’s practice with a commendation for having demonstrated a high level of innovation and impact, and for being sustainable. The College continues to work with external agencies and partners to develop future activities and looks forward to building on the success of its commendation in the year ahead.