SCHOOLS pioneering ways to protect pupils' mental health have been recognised with national awards.

Both The Cherwell School in Summertown and Aureus School in Didcot have been commended for their focus on students' wellbeing.

Cherwell has been given gold status of the Carnegie Centre of Excellence Mental Health Award for Schools, given to schools that strive to 'strengthen the mental health of the next generation.'

Writing in an end-of-term newsletter before the Easter break, the school's headteacher Chris Price said it was a 'proud' achievement.

He added: "Achieving recognition of this type is pleasing but looking forward I am more interested in what we can do to support our young people moving forward.

"In her 'Shared Society' speech in 2017, the Prime Minister referred to the issue of societies failure to tackle mental health problems, especially amongst young people, as a 'burning injustice.'"

As reported in the Oxford Mail previously, Oxford city schools are set to start a pilot project aiming to reduce waiting times for child and adolescent mental health services.

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In December the government gifted Oxfordshire agencies with £5.4m to slash the waiting list.

Part of the money will be spent on basing 16 new mental health practitioners in schools, reaching 16,000 pupils.

Mr Price's newsletter revealed that The Cherwell School will 'take the lead' in this pilot project.

He wrote: "I represent local schools on the delivery board for this project and I am optimistic that this will start to have genuine impact in our school and across the city by the end of this academic year.

"What I particularly like about the pilot project is that it is designed to support schools with preventative strategies and with a new workforce who are already in training."

Schools are increasingly recognising the important role they can play in ensuring pupils do not fall victim to poor mental health.

Among those leading the way in Oxfordshire is Aureus School in Didcot, which believes it was the first school in the county to be given Carnegie's gold status, back in January.

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The secondary school has now been given more recognition for its focus on mental health.

It was highly commended in Place2Be's Wellbeing in Schools Awards, a ceremony run by a mental health charity, in the 'school community' category.

The charity praised the school's partnership with Didcot community project The Art Room, which helps children to utilise the therapeutic power of art.

Aureus's headteacher Hannah Wilson said: "To have been received highly commended for an award like this is a real endorsement of all we have tried to do here at Aureus.

“From the moment we opened [in 2017], our approach has been to offer a nurturing vision and a holistic education to nurture the hearts and the minds of our students.

"Wellbeing is at the centre of all we do here. We strive to equip our students with an emotional toolkit to help them overcome challenges in life by preventing consequences, rather than learning how to have to deal with them."

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Each morning before lessons Aureus pupils are offered half an hour of mindful strategies, art, reading or movement.

The school also has sensory rooms and a nurture room, and has recruited a student welfare manager, a nurture manager and a 'thrive practitioner.'

Place2Be's chief executive Catherine Roche said: "All too often we are surrounded by stories of children’s mental health in crisis.

"Sadly, we hear less about the brilliant efforts made every day to support children and young people in UK schools.

"To redress this, Place2Be’s Wellbeing in Schools Awards recognise and showcase the remarkable work and commitment to promote mental health across our partner schools in the UK."