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Bracknell teacher on Finnish fact-finding trip to support students with mental health issues

14 March 2019

A Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) from Activate Learning’s Bracknell and Wokingham campus is visiting Finland to learn about their innovative approach to young people’s mental health issues. 


Colleges nationwide are seeing increasing numbers of students experiencing difficulties with their mental health and well-being. This can impact learners’ ability to study at college, make friendships and can limit their outlook regarding further study, an apprenticeship or work.   


Vronwyn Hutch is travelling with the Association of Colleges to Finland on 17 March on an Erasmus+ Mental Health Support Study Visit Programme. There she will learn about Finnish mental health support strategies through briefings from government departments, national experts and teachers who are implementing these directives. 


A British delegation of 14 will stay in Oulu, the most populous city in Northern Finland, for three days and have a packed agenda of college, local authority and charity visits. They will also attend a one-day joint peer learning conference that includes best practice case study presentations and round table discussions. 


Mental health is a challenge facing further education establishments both in the UK and abroad. Social media pressures, exam stress and financial difficulties can all contribute to depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions among students. 


Research from the Association of Colleges, published in 2017, found nearly three quarters of colleges had to refer students to hospital A&E departments that year due to an urgent mental health incident. Situations like these negatively impact not only the student, their family and peers, but place increasing demand on an already stretched NHS.  


Activate Learning has developed and implemented a mental health strategy across its group of colleges that includes student information campaigns, teacher resources, support projects and staff training. Vronwyn’s participation in this international initiative will further enhance Activate Learning’s proactive and preventative approach to the issue. 


Vronwyn says: “I wanted to further my own understanding of the issues affecting mental health with the support of European colleagues. The intention is then to collaborate with staff to improve and develop the service for learners within Activate Learning.   


I am excited to be part of a project which also has the potential to inform future work within the realm of mental health and well-being at a national level. Continuing professional development opportunities and the chance to share practice and innovation in the support of young peoples’ mental health is essential.” 


Learning outcomes from the project will be shared with the Department for Education, the Department of Health, the Home Office and the Education and Training Foundation to help inform future national strategies and identify training needs in the area of young people’s mental health.