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Why this school in Ipswich has its own mental health nurse - to help nurture happy pupils

PUBLISHED: 16:15 03 January 2020 | UPDATED: 17:54 03 January 2020

Kelley Osman, wellbeing coordinator at Copleston High School in Ipswich. Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTH

Kelley Osman, wellbeing coordinator at Copleston High School in Ipswich. Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTH

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She may not be teaching pupils English, maths or how to pass a crucial exam - but Kelley Osman has perhaps one of the most important jobs at this Ipswich school.

Copleston High School.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNCopleston High School. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

For as young people face more challenges than ever breaking into the adult world, her role as a mental health nurse at Copleston High School is to ensure they stay well and healthy in spite of the pressures they face.

There are said to be many demands on young people today, from the pressure to pass exams to bullying and, while it can be a force for good, the downsides of social media.

"In order to successful in life, qualifications are course important but if you don't have resilience and you don't have the ability to bounce back, life can be hard," said Copleston High principal Andy Green.

So to help young people not only cope but thrive against the tough challenges they face, the Gippeswyk Community Educational Trust school has brought in a range of measures to help support their wellbeing.

Central to that is Miss Osman's role as the school's wellbeing coordinator.

Having worked for several years as a clinical psychologist in child and adolescent mental health services (CAMS), her role is to ensure students who may need emotional support receive the right help.

But perhaps even more importantly, it is about building on the culture at the Copleston Road school to make sure everyone - from teachers to students and classroom assistants - has mental wellbeing at the forefront of their mind.

"For me, it is about embedding well-being and emotional support into the whole school and to make sure we're always mindful about wellbeing," she said.

"If we can keep children and families as emotionally healthy as possible, there isn't the need to do work at the other end.

"I just think of my role here as making sure we're up-skilling staff and making this as emotionally healthy environment as possible."

Miss Osman's work includes giving teachers training on how to spot signs a pupil might be experiencing mental ill health to simply being available to ask for advice about a particular student.

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She said that while she cannot be a wellbeing coach to all of the school's 1,800 students, "I can teach staff what warnings signs they need to be looking for".

She added: "What we've felt before is that staff have felt uncomfortable about having those conversations.

"Now all the staff here see opening the conversation around well-being as a good thing.

"I think the demands on young people are greater now than they were.

"Provisions are also different now - resources are really challenged.

"Because of the employment market, the pressure of exams is more.

"They need English and maths to get to the next level. Expectations are higher and the job market is really pressured for them. We know they're going to face at least one redundancy.

"If we get it right, I'm hopeful we're up-skilling staff and students to manage the challenges they're going to face."

Copleston High School has also brought in a whole programme of lessons and activities designed to teach young people the all-important skills needed to come back from setbacks in life.

While students would usually sit 11 GCSEs, some may instead study for 10 and instead do the school's three-year "resilience programme".

Units include climbing, mindfulness and problem-solving while also running a Christmas fayre and restoring a bicycle, as well as First Aid, food hygiene and managing stress.

Those selected are not chosen for their ability but are people who teachers believe could benefit from greater self-confidence.

Mr Green says the resilience programme helps students "feel more confident and their self-esteem is higher".

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