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Beacon Award Commended College Synopses 2022/23 - The NOCN Group Award for Mental Health and Wellbeing


South Eastern Regional College

SERC has implemented the Mind Yourself Campaign – an initiative led by SERC, in partnership with Health Matters, to raise awareness and promote workplace health and wellbeing. The Mind Yourself Campaign works in collaboration with Student Services to create a 'one message' approach for the whole College staff and students taking cognisance of our 'One College', 'One Team' 'One Vision' approach. Achieving good mental health, remaining physically healthy, and recognising that employees' and students' values and personal development within the college are critical to supporting their overall wellbeing. The Mind Yourself Campaign focuses on three areas: o Delivering health promotion; o Implementing mental wellbeing initiatives; and o Creating a positive and dynamic work and education culture. Evidence from staff and student engagement has demonstrated that the Mind Yourself Campaign is gaining a culture that promotes wellbeing and establishes a positive work/life balance. The programme has successfully reduced work-related stress in staff, staff sickness, and absence rates and contributed to excellent student retention rates. The annual staff survey compared positively to the previous year's survey. The survey identified that 65% of staff felt more resilient, an increase from 55% in the last year, and morale and motivation rose from 58% to 72%.

Newcastle & Stafford Colleges Group (NSCG)

We set out to raise awareness of our ongoing Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy to remind students that we are listening and are here for them. We came across a local initiative where members of the public were leaving crafted bees around the community to highlight suicide awareness. We decided this would be a great way to get our message out there and so the NSCG-BEE was born! Support staff, lecturers and students from across both sites began creating bees out of felt, wool and Perspex and donating them to our cause. Some of our students were even able to use this project as evidence towards their course, making the initiative even more worthwhile. Each bee had a message of affirmation attached to it, promoting positive mental health and during Children’s Mental Health Week we hid them around both of our campuses for students and staff to find. The feedback we received was hugely positive, with many students appreciating the time spent with one another as they tracked down the bees. Those who found one were encouraged to create more of a ‘buzz’ online by posting on social media using the hashtag “#NSCGBEE” with prizes given for participation.

Nottingham College

The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in a devastating effect on the mental health and wellbeing of people across the country. This disproportionally impacted Nottingham: a City with high levels of deprivation, poor mental health and wellbeing and higher than national average rates of suicide, self-harm and substance abuse related hospital admissions. We recognised how catastrophic the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns could be for our learners and staff, many of whom live within Nottingham’s most deprived wards. We responded to this challenge with the creation of an enhanced, diverse and whole organisational approach to mental health and wellbeing that delivered tailored support throughout the pandemic and following the return to college life. This began as a virtual service throughout lockdown and has evolved to become an integral part of our culture and identity. Our commitment to promoting mental health and wellbeing grows year on year. We currently offer a diverse and innovative range of support options for learners and staff including an online Wellbeing Hub, a dedicated team of 36 Wellbeing Mentors and Wellness Cafes for staff and learners tailored to specific areas of support, including coping with stress and anxiety, BAME, LGBTQ+, new parents, bereavement and the menopause.

RNN Group

Research into the impact of COVID-19 showed whilst young people were less affected by infection, they were disproportionately impacted by social, educational and economic impacts and those facing challenges such as living in poverty; living with a disability or in challenging family circumstances (like many learners across the RNN Group) were hardest hit. Upon return to full time learning in September 2021, staff observed mental health & wellbeing referrals were increasing; attendance was below previous years; and an increase in low level disruptive behaviour. Research into the extended effects of the pandemic suggest these impact factors will be seen for many years to come. As a result, of the above, the RNN Group created the RNN Inspire Programme to support learners to develop strategies to improve their mental health and wellbeing and to bring about a shift in mindset and culture. The RNN Group collaborated with national and international world-renowned industry experts to work directly with learners to intrinsically support them to get to the route of the issues they were facing and to support them to develop coping strategies to improve their mental health and growth mindset.

Portland College

Our ‘Be Healthy, Active and Courageous’ Project was introduced because of an increase in learners with significant mental health issues and low resilience, with several examples of suicidal thoughts and severe anxiety. Community mental health services couldn’t cope with demand, so we knew we needed an intervention. This innovative programme empowers learners to develop and track skills of resilience and autonomous well-being. Staff deliver the programme focussing on three key themes: • Know Myself – to support self-awareness and self-regulation • Win the Week – developing high-quality health habits. • Be Courageous – seeing failure as an opportunity to learn instead of an opportunity to stop learning. The skills taught are related to positive psychology, mindfulness and coaching science. We have trained 150 staff to deliver the programme which builds physical exercise into sessions, generates collective solutions to improve well-being and links enrichment activities to at least one of the 5 NHS Steps to Well-being. Our next step is to train staff in care and adult education pathways. This project formed the foundation and we continually challenge ourselves to keep innovating, e.g. using VR for desensitisation, sharing best practice with another college, encouraging safe friendships online and participating in Badminton England and Every Girl Can initiatives.


Following national trends post-COVID, demand in support needed for learner mental health and wellbeing at Petroc rose significantly. In 2021/2022, Petroc saw a 68% increase in the use of its wellbeing and mental health services. The college, with the University of Plymouth, has found a way of tackling two major national problems in one initiative backed by the NHS body, Health Education England: Colleges seeing massive spikes in learner’s mental health issues and the demand for places to train Student Nurses. With the rise in learners needing to access support for their mental health, Petroc identified a systematic delay that could impact their ability to engage fully in study programmes, achieve potential, and could lead to an increase in risk. To mitigate this, Petroc established a leading partnership with the University of Plymouth’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, providing work placement opportunities for their Mental Health Nursing Students. By integrating Student Nurses into Petroc’s services, learners with lower level needs can access assessment without delay, supporting their pathway to academic success. Petroc has; offered empowering and enriching work experience programmes; created support for their service; and promoted the sharing of best practice across the board.

Coleg Cambria

The College identified a significant increase in mental health and wellbeing disclosures and referrals since 19/20, with the pandemic clearly affecting a trauma response in many young people. In addition, the numbers of disciplinaries for learners from the lowest decile exceeded those from other deciles. These are learners identified as most likely to have experienced adverse childhood experiences. As a result, the college implemented a comprehensive cross-college approach to Trauma Informed Practice which aligns to the emerging Trauma framework for Wales. These approaches have been developed through ‘Trauma Informed methodology’ and supported by specialist staff and an Inclusive College Strategy. The initiative ensures that staff are equipped to support both learners and colleagues. To enable this initiative, the college has developed and implemented a Trauma Informed action plan and a cross college awareness raising and training schedule that has resulted in staff that are well trained and who use positive and effective strategies that support wellbeing and retention. As a result of the in-depth training and research, wellbeing approaches, college processes and teaching and learning have been viewed through a ‘trauma informed lens’, resulting in early signs of improved wellbeing for both staff and learners.

Bolton College

This was a project formed through working with key stakeholders such as the Greater Manchester Violence Reduction Unit (VRU), Greater Manchester Police, Odd Arts, Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Police Scotland. We had a shared vision and commitment to equipping as many local people as possible with the knowledge, skills and behaviours to keep themselves and their families safe from harm, particularly harm from sexual harassment and abusive relationships. We were aware of and concerned by nationally collected statistics that show that there has been a sharp increase in reporting of child sexual abuse to the police in recent years. Figures that include all child sexual abuse cases show that the police recorded over 83,000 child sexual abuse offences (including obscene publications) in the year ending March 2020. This is an increase of approximately 267% since 2013. Research estimates indicate that approximately one quarter of cases of all child sexual abuse involve a perpetrator under the age of 18. In June 2021, Ofsted was asked by the government to carry out a rapid review of sexual abuse in schools and Colleges. A few of the key recommendations from the review were: * engaging students in small-group sessions to discuss different forms of harmful sexual behaviour * developing a sequenced tutorial curriculum, that specifically includes sexual harassment and sexual violence * high-quality training for teachers delivering RSHE Colleges play a crucial part in preparing young people for life in modern Britain. As a College, during 2019-2021 we saw a 2% increase in disclosures relating to domestic abuse. Not only were we keen to increase and build on the resources we had in support of this, we wanted to support others in raising awareness of this important topic. We recognised that a new approach was needed which engaged students of all ages and backgrounds and also allowed delivery staff the freedom to adapt the resource to their context as well as upskilling and supporting staff to be confident with such a sensitive subject. All resources produced have the 5 NHS Steps to Wellbeing Strategy embedded. Throughout this online tutorial, students: * explore the differences between a healthy and unhealthy relationship * recognise the early signs of a relationship turning abusive * identify what sexual harassment and sexually violent behaviour is and explore when banter can be seen as abuse * discover what is considered as consent and the importance of having the capacity to give genuine consent * recognise what the term victim means and the stigma around this * become familiar with the life changing consequences of getting involved in unhealthy relationships * be given the opportunity to analyse self-help strategies * know what to expect if you share a concern * be provided with information on the support available to you if you need to end an unhealthy relationship As a result of this successful project, we have been able to provide an excellent tool in support of this agenda.

New City College

This college has a long and successful record of specialist mental health services however in the last two years, the support need from students has rocketed, with the college’s specialist mental health & wellbeing teams simply unable to manage the demand and meet the increased volume of students needing support. A fast and radical data and user-informed review has resulted in increased and comprehensive mental health and wellbeing support at no extra cost to the college. Partnership arrangements have quickly secured a range of external advisers delivering support on campus, and materials, resources and training are rolled out to staff across the college. A new screening ‘triage’ process was introduced and students receive support from the most appropriate channel for their needs. Waiting times have reduced and support is targeted more effectively with consistently positive outcomes.

Harrow College and Uxbridge College (HCUC)

A holistic approach to improving mental health for all has been implemented across the college, with a focus on inclusivity, innovation and impact. Driven through a new Mental Health strategy and focused action plan, scrutinised by the Governors (including a Governor Mental Health Champion) termly, this has led to creativity, innovation and targeted interventions to support staff and students across HCUC. Mental Health roles have been created to support learners and this is further supported by ALS Mental Health Champions. A bespoke mentoring programme for Black Caribbean students, was introduced and this led to these students improving their outcomes. Students pursuing Health and Social Care courses where there is high incidence of mental health issues were provided with mentors and supported with resilience skills. A safe space and chill out room was set up for students to support their well-being. For staff, there is targeted CPD to support mental health including an online 24/7 access to Plumm which is an all-in-one mental health platform, accessible via a mobile app. Students with SEND/severe mental health needs were more effectively supported as the College developed two new SEND qualifications for guidance and teaching staff which equipped them with improved skills.

Heart of Birmingham Vocational College (HBVC)

The college has created an environment where all students and staff have exceptional support for their Mental Health and Wellbeing. Leaders have embedded a wide range of support mechanisms for everyone, and continuously review provision to ensure the Mental Health and Wellbeing of everyone is at the core of all aspects of the college. Support mechanisms include Pastoral support, counselling, Mental Health First Aiders, Duty Managers, a prominent Safeguarding team and other benefits include access to support from external organisations. The achievements of all students and staff are recognised and celebrated regularly through a variety of strategies to ensure the college is a happy place for everyone. Leaders are passionate about ensuring that students have an exceptional experience and achieve their full potential, the support they receive is key to this. Leaders are also committed to ensure all staff have a healthy work/life balance and have structured the provision to ensure this is achieved.

John Leggott College

The “Every Student” Wellbeing Model has 5 tiers: Tier 1 takes a whole college approach to healthy practice and prevention, offering emotional and physical health advice and guidance. Tier 2 provides support for students that have been referred to the wellbeing team for low level emotional and physical health concerns, facilitated by our Wellbeing Officer. Tier 3 is also facilitated by our Wellbeing Officer, providing support for students with mental health issues using a structured 6 week process, focusing on specific needs of an individual. Tier 4 supports students with complex mental health needs (psychosis, bi-polar, EUPD etc.) This tier is facilitated by our Mental Health Adviser who works closely with external partner agencies such as CAMHS and Adult Mental Health Services to enable collaborative multi-agency approaches and advocates for students in various stages of their mental health support journey. Tier 5 incorporates the Safeguarding Team for situations when the student’s safety is at risk and links with external agencies like the police or the crisis team. Tier 5 is usually a temporary, floating stage allowing for an immediate risk assessment process before moving to follow up care available in tiers 2-4.

The Sheffield College

The College’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Academy was developed and launched during lockdown, and is open to all students. The Academy provides students and staff with tailored training, support, advice, and ideas for managing mental health, which can be accessed on campus or remotely at any time. The Academy has links with specialist support services as well as contact numbers in case users need to access help immediately. The Academy was developed with a company called Champion Health and the college was the first Further Education college to launch an online support platform in the UK. The content was co-written by students, staff, and health professionals. The content that was on this platform had been developed by Educational Psychologists to create a comprehensive support and training package that is delivered to frontline staff so they can support colleagues and students better and can identify when further support is needed. One student ambassador said: “I’m excited to see the new skills that I can learn in this role at college. Meeting new people and working together to educate people, and working together to educate people on mental health is vital to having a positive outlook both in and out of college.”

Middlesbrough College

Middlesbrough College is a community-based college with just over 13,000 students enrolled. We successfully secured funding from the Northeast and North Cumbria Child Health and Wellbeing Network for an initiative that enabled progression of inequalities work aligned with the network's priorities. We were clearly able to demonstrate that our project supports both mental health and health promotion. Building on a ‘what matters to me model’, students can work with a member of the wellbeing team to co-produce a simple plan or a summary personalised care and support plan based on the individuals' strengths, needs and preferences as well as making the most of our college community and external community support.

Salford City College

Supported by staff that have undertaken comprehensive CPD, students are encouraged to take a pro-active approach to mental health and wellbeing through engaging with the fully inclusive #WELLSTUDENT enrichment programme which also serves as an internal social prescribing offer. The programme has four distinct categories, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual and all students are encouraged to participate in an activity from each quadrant (recognising that mental health and wellbeing is intrinsically connected to overall health and wellbeing). Where there is an identified mental health/wellbeing concern, pastoral staff support students to complete a #WELLSTUDENT triage assessment that incorporates the four quadrants of the programme. The centre safeguarding lead analyses the triage documentation to determine the next steps according to a tiered system which includes referral to the internal #WELLSTUDENT social prescribing offer, pastoral intervention, internal therapeutic support and external referral. Progress made by students is recorded using a Thrive-based model allowing for clear monitoring of improvements and a shared language with external agencies thus providing seamless, comprehensive transition. Accompanied by a resilience-based, levelled tutorial programme, #WELLSTUDENT builds a resilient cohort of students who are proactive in the care of their mental health and wellbeing at college and beyond.

The College Merthyr Tydfil

The College Merthyr Tydfil strives to provide an environment that encourages and supports ‘active engagement’ and ‘health and wellbeing’ and provide a culture and ethos where all staff and learners can get the right help at the right time. Based upon eight key priorities, the college has a dedicated mental health and wellbeing strategy and underpinning action plan that is led by the Director of Learner Experience with support from the Head of Learner Wellbeing, Mental Health Co-ordinator and dedicated Learner Support and Wellbeing Team. Progress against the strategy and action plan is monitored and reviewed termly, based upon feedback from staff and learners, evaluation of training, support referrals and through the outcomes of the college’s learner and staff surveys and focus groups. One of the key aspects of the strategy has been the embedding of mental health and wellbeing into our curriculum planning to include teaching and tutorial support on Mental Health and Wellbeing, to reduce the stigma associated with mental health and promote equality of opportunity. This is starting to have a positive effect with 99% of learners stating that they felt safe to discuss wellbeing and mental health concerns with staff in our 2022 Learner Survey.