During Optimus’ Mental Health conference, I had the pleasure of hearing Dr John Ivens, Head of Education at the Bethlem and Maudsley Hospital School, speak about the identification of vulnerable young people.

This is an area I am looking to develop at my school; particularly in light of our Nurture Group, and the need to develop more sophisticated screening and assessment tools for the year 6 students transferring to us in September 2009.

It was refreshing to hear Dr Ivens speak about ‘not being dominated by a diagnosis’. So often parents/carers/other staff seem to think that a diagnosis or label is the answer to everything, and this is simply not the case.

Much more flexible provision is needed for children today. We cannot simply look at specific areas of need in isolation any more; it is often necessary to consider specific learning needs alongside mental health requirements and social complexities. The 21st Century SENCo needs to be able to respond pro-actively – not to simply offer support by means of an assessment or diagnosis.

Various measures for assessing the ‘happiness, wellbeing, reintegration and readiness’ of students were discussed at the conference, but one I was particularly interested in was the ‘School Children’s Happiness Inventory’ (SCHI), devised by Dr Ivens himself.

The ECM agenda aims for young people to:

  • Be healthy
  • Stay safe
  • Enjoy and achieve
  • Make a positive contribution
  • Achieve economic well-being

Being ‘happy’ in school, and life, seems to be a key part of achieving these aims, and I am positive that a good learning community is a happy one. I hope to be able to look at the SCHI with some students over the next few months and see how it relates to our context.