Sydney Catholic Schools is implementing a first in system, whole-school approach to wellbeing.

The wellbeing initiative will involve a proactive, strategic and collaborative approach to mental health within schools in the Ashfield-Olympic Park network.

Sydney Catholic Schools (SCS) has 12 networks from North Sydney to the south west, the eastern suburbs and everything in between.

Networks build local connections and collaborations between primary and high schools, families and parishes, to bring about the best outcomes for our students no matter where they are in Sydney.

Sydney Catholic Schools has partnered with the national Department of Health initiative, Be You, to assist schools in becoming mentally healthy learning communities.

This involves the provision of evidence-based professional learning for educators complemented by a range of tools and resources across five domains.

These domains are Mentally Healthy School Communities; Family Partnerships; Learning Resilience; Early Support and Responding Together.

A collaborative approach will allow sharing between schools, Be You consultants and the SCS Student Wellbeing team through staff and family learning events and ongoing planning meetings.

Representatives from 14 schools gathered together in Term 4 of last year to set the agenda for 2023

SCS’ Director of Sydney Performance, Dr Edmond Maher, supports the timeliness of building a mental health community and is optimistic for a rollout across all networks.

St Ambrose Catholic Primary School Concord West Principal and initiative leader, Ms Linda McFadden, said, “Working with the SCS Wellbeing team and representatives from Be You has given us great direction for moving forward with a clear mental health plan in place.”

The Be You framework is currently available for use in all Sydney Catholic Schools with support from the SCS Wellbeing Team and Be You consultants.

Collaboration of schools across the network will provide an extra level of support and engagement to develop greater mental health literacy beyond the Be You initiative.

On 24 April, the staff from ten primary schools within the network participated in a combined staff development day to learn more about mental health within schools.

“We are hoping that the initiative will bring great results not only in the area of wellbeing in our schools but also in the gains that can be made by working collaboratively with our network schools,” said Ms McFadden.

Staff enjoyed the opportunity to connect with other colleagues and to focus on the importance of belonging and connection as a foundation for a mentally healthy school community.

SCS Student Wellbeing Supervisor, Wendy Howlett, said “a number of principals who attended the day have commented on the positive feedback from their staff, some of whom expressed feeling inspired to engage in further professional learning on wellbeing.”

Sessions during the staff development day focused on risk and protective factors, useful resources such as the Be You Mental Health Continuum, understanding and supporting behaviour, as well as the importance of staff wellbeing.

Ms McFadden highlighted that the aim of the day was twofold.

“To move forward with our network wellbeing initiative but also, more broadly, to create an opportunity for us to come together as a network of schools.

There is so much richness in each of our individual schools and to come together as a larger group where we can experience being part of a network, to share ideas and to learn together is a great opportunity that we hope will lead to many more meaningful connections” she said.