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Priory expert to advise teachers from across the UK on pupils’ social media use

Experts from Priory Group, the leading mental healthcare specialists, are attending a London conference of leading UK prep schools to advise on social media use among school children and other key issues which have an impact on children’s mental health.

Led by Dr Hayley van Zwanenberg, Medical Director of the Priory Wellbeing Centre in Oxford, the keynote speakers will deliver a day-long course aimed at helping teachers and support staff recognise and help deliver first-rate mental health in schools.

The event on March 20, 2018, will include an overview of the mental health landscape in the UK, where schools fit within this, and how schools can provide support to their wider communities.

Specially-devised workshop topics will offer practical advice and guidance on managing challenging pupil behaviours in the classroom and overseeing social media use in both prep and pre-prep aged children. Priory experts will also talk to teachers, school nurses and other support staff about how best to discuss mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, and self-harming, and other concerns, with parents.

Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Dr van Zwanenberg, is Priory Group Associate Director and Clinical Director of the Priory’s Wellbeing Centres. She said; “We are delighted to be working closely with the Independent Association of Prep Schools again and to have a forum dedicated to discussing so many important issues that we know play a huge part in preventing young people from developing serious mental health conditions. Last year, over 120 delegates attended, highlighting the level of interest and concern among teachers of pupils who are still relatively young, yet still at potential risk of poor mental health.

“Although we will essentially be looking at promoting positive mental health in 4 to 13-year-olds, I believe we have a real responsibility to prepare all young people for the often turbulent, teenage years - and the emotional resilience needed to navigate any ‘bumps in the road’ on their journey into adulthood, whether with friends, family or due to pressures at school.”

She added: “It’s important to recognise that social media has dramatically changed the way we interact, communicate and live – and many adults, including teachers, are still getting to grips with the social media age. ‘Selfies’, ‘likes’, FOMO (fear of missing out), cyberbullying and a growing obsession with self-image – all these factors can lead to issues such as eating disorders and low self-esteem, so it’s vital that we’re speaking the same language as schoolchildren.

“By focusing on the pressures and impact of social media on young people’s mental health and wellbeing, I’m confident the specific session I will be running for teachers will provide positive, practical advice to support educators in this changing landscape.”

Dr van Zwanenberg is widely quoted in the popular media on issues around child and adolescent mental health, including in the Oxford media, The Times, The Telegraph, the Daily Express and on the BBC an. She writes regularly for health and parenting titles. She is also a contributor to the Huffington Post where she writes insightful blogs around parenting and mental health.

As part of a strategy for promoting good mental health, psychiatrists and psychologists from the Priory’s UK-wide network of hospitals and clinics regularly visit schools to work with both teachers and pupils around themes such as resilience and how to manage stress and eating disorders. They provide advice on how to recognise the “warning signs”, and why early diagnosis and intervention is crucial in helping combat problems before they develop into something more serious.

A recent survey - carried out to mark Children's Mental Health Week - found 44% of head teachers said knowing what type of support was needed was a barrier to them providing mental health support for pupils. And 37% said they did not feel confident in commissioning a counsellor or therapist.

The charity, Place2Be, also surveyed 1,198 counsellors and psychotherapists currently working in schools and found 34% said providing services in schools was difficult.

In December, the Department of Health and Department for Education published a joint plan to improve children and young people's access to mental health support at schools and colleges in England. The pledge came as NHS figures showed around one in 10 girls aged 16 or 17 was referred to specialist mental health services in England in 2016.

Priory’s Course Director, Sabrina Cator has been collating feedback from last year’s delegates, as well as from early subscribers to the 2018 workshop, to help highlight particular behaviours that cause issues in the classroom. These real-world scenarios, which have been anonymised, will form the basis of practical workshops that will focus on understanding behaviours, and ‘top tips’ for managing these in schools. 

Sabrina added: “Following a survey carried out amongst IAPS schools, mental health was seen as a key area requiring training and support. As Priory offer a range of psycho-educational seminars, clinical supervision, psychiatric assessments and a wide variety of therapeutic support across the country, we are well placed to provide schools with the skills and confidence to deal with mental health and wellbeing for staff, parents and young people.”

Priory Healthcare is the largest independent provider of mental health services in Europe and is part of the Priory Group which also provides specialist children’s educational services and adult care. Priory Healthcare is the largest independent provider of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

Priory Children’s Educational Services also provide residential care and specialist education for children with learning disabilities, autism, social and behavioural difficulties and mental ill health. 

IAPS and Priory both recognise that poor mental health, for pupils and staff, can lead to poor educational outcomes and disruption to school life. More importantly for pupils, it contributes to poor long-term mental health and reduced quality of life.

In addition to Dr van Zwanenberg, key speakers and workshop leaders include; Dr Faeza Khan (Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at the Priory Hospital Cheadle Royal, Cheshire) and Dr John Steward (Managing Director of Priory Education and Children’s Services and a teacher for over 20 years).

Priory’s Wellbeing Centres were developed to bring swift access to patients, where there is an identifiable need, offering fast access to affordable assessment and high-quality treatment with flexible consulting hours to fit round work commitments and busy lifestyles.

In addition to Oxford, they are located in Birmingham, Southampton, Canterbury, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Greater Manchester, Harley Street and Fenchurch Street (London) and Dubai.


Notes to editors

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About Priory Group

The Priory Group is the leading provider of behavioural care in the UK caring for around 30,000 people a year for conditions including depression, stress, drug and alcohol addiction, eating disorders and self-harming. The Group is organised into three divisions – healthcare, education and children’s services, and adult care. The Priory Group is owned by NASDAQ-listed Acadia Healthcare, which is recognised as a global leader in behavioural health.

About The Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS)

The Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS) is a schools association with around 650 of the world’s leading prep schools in membership.

Schools must reach a very high standard to be eligible for membership, with strict criteria on teaching a broad curriculum, maintaining excellent standards of pastoral care and keeping staff members’ professional development training up to date.

Although all IAPS member schools are independent, and has its own ethos, they are all committed to delivering an excellent, well-rounded education to the pupils in their care.

IAPS believe that schools should be unfettered by government interference and with fewer financial and other resourcing constraints than state schools, to ensure that their educational provision is tailored to the needs of the individual children.

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