Should school visit leaders (VL) be trained in Mental Health Awareness?


Original image source – National guidance for the management of outdoor learning, off-site visits and learning outside the classroom

School Visit Leaders (VL) and Mental Health

There is a growing body of evidence that time spent in outdoor green spaces is vital for mental health, and that well-managed outdoor learning and adventure activities can be powerful ways of helping children and young people to develop their emotional and psychological wellbeing, mental resilience and happiness.  This article explores how we can best support School Visit Leaders and Mental Health.

6v © OEAP 31-March-2021

As an experienced school visit leader (VL) and educational visits co-ordinator (EVC), during a 16-year teaching career; I understand only too well, the need for a thorough and robust risk assessment (risk-benefit analysis) process before any educational school visit.

Having an awareness of hazards that may cause harm should be top of any visit leader’s check-list

Therefore, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and reinforced by recent research examining the effect on children’s mental health – it would seem reasonable to suggest that anyone with a duty of care for children and young people, should have up-to-date awareness of mental health issues affecting young people today.

Natural England commissioned research to understand the perspective of children and young people relating to nature during Covid-19.  A total of 1,501 children, aged between 8-15 in England, participated in an online survey between 6th-18th August 2020.

The survey demonstrates the positive role of nature in supporting children’s well-being, with eight in ten (83%) of children interviewed agreeing that being in nature made them very happy. Overall, four in five (81%) children reported being happy and just three per cent reported being unhappy.  Undoubtedly, coronavirus has had an impact on children’s mental health and wellbeing, with half (48%) of children interviewed reporting that being worried about catching / spreading coronavirus had stopped them from spending more time outside.

Natural spaces are important places for connection – with the natural world and each other. However, since the lockdown, 81% of children stated that they had spent less time outside with friends. Seventy per cent of children said that in the future when things start to get back to normal, they want to spend more time outdoors with friends, and 44% reported wanting more time outdoors at school.

The People and Nature Survey for England: Children’s survey (Experimental Statistics) published 14 October 2020

Save Outdoor Education

Outdoor education residential centres have been prevented from operating, receiving no income since March 2020 due to Government guidance preventing school overnight stays.

By Spring 2021, over 2 million children will have missed out on educational visits at a time when the Government acknowledges wellbeing and mental health for young people should be a priority.

Outdoor education residentials provide vital lifelong learning with benefits including resilience and perseverance, adaptability and social awareness to name a few.


It’s time to prioritise outdoor learning opportunities for our children

But to do so, we need to first support our school visit leaders.  To increase their confidence in spotting the early warning signs and symptoms of poor mental health.  To feel supported in planning and leading amazing educational school visits, which children desperately need.  School visits are proven to improve young people’s mental health and well-being – and school staff deserve the very best support to make them happen.

If you represent a school or multi-academy trust and would like to talk to me about supporting your visit leaders with mental health awareness training; I would be only too happy to speak with you.  And to put my money where my mouth is, I’m offering a half-day discounted Youth Aware course accredited by MHFA England, for all VL’s or EVC’s in Worcestershire to attend in October 2021.  For more information, please click here