Implementing Whole School Mental Health Approaches: Relationships, reflection and everyday practices

  • Amy Burns

Student thesis: Doctor of Educational and Child Psychology


Background Recent policies and guidance internationally, in step with literature and research, advocate whole school positive mental health approaches. Acceptability of new innovations is a key factor influencing implementation. This thesis examines how school staff perceive and enact their role and how Educational Psychologists (EPs) can support implementation of whole school mental health approaches. Methods and participants A review of international research explored school staff views of how they enact a whole school approach to promote positive mental health. An empirical study with a UK primary school explored the experiences of a group of school staff who approached the implementation of a whole school mental health approach using action research and a transformative development framework. The EP role in supporting professional development around implementing a whole school mental health approach is explored. Analysis and findings A meta-ethnographic literature review identified 8 relevant studies, analysis yielded insight into the complex interplay of systems which impact educators’ promotion of mental health. A model is developed which explores this multifaceted interaction and highlights the central role of the relationship between the adult and the child. Findings from the empirical study suggest that EPs can support school staff to implement whole school mental health approaches. Providing staff with opportunities to explore and reflect on their experiences and their conceptualisations of mental health and how this develops throughout the implementation process is essential. Conclusion and implications The pervasive interaction between pupils and teachers provides the context for teachers’ (intended and unintended) influence on children’s mental health. Relationships, an integral part of the teaching role, are therefore highlighted as a key active ingredient in implementing a whole school mental health approach. Implementation processes and professional development need to provide school staff with ongoing opportunities to develop their views and every-day practices to facilitate implementation. EPs are well placed to support schools in this complex and fundamental process.
Date of Award31 Dec 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorKevin Woods (Supervisor) & Catherine Kelly (Supervisor)


  • Wellbeing
  • Systematic literature review
  • Meta-ethnographic review
  • Action Research
  • Collaborative
  • Whole School approach
  • Mental Health
  • Staff perceptions
  • Participation
  • Transformative change

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