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Tooling Up the airwaves with Dr Kathy Weston and Tom Rogers

Did you tune in to hear Tooled Up founder, Dr Kathy Weston, providing expert advice and tips on the Teachers Talk Radio show earlier in September?

Don’t worry if you missed the live broadcast as you can listen back now.    

Before you click, here is some insight into what Dr Weston and host, Tom Rogers, chatted about when they took to the airwaves to discuss evidence-informed approaches to mental health and wellbeing.

The pandemic tsunami – what is left behind on the ‘mental health beach’ after COVID?

Opening the dialogue by speaking about the main mental health issues facing our nation’s young people, Dr Weston reminds listeners that World Health Organisation data in 2018 revealed that half of mental health disorders in adulthood start by the age of 14 and that, according to a recent study, a staggering 7% of schoolchildren will have attempted suicide by the age of 17.

Even prior to the pandemic, mental health issues were a serious concern, but Dr Weston describes a mental health ‘tsunami’ that flooded the population during the course of the pandemic. The wave is now receding, but it’s left behind many dominant patterns on the ‘mental health beach’. Anxiety is the leading mental health concern amongst young people, but pastoral staff in schools also describe a notable increase in eating disorders, body image dissatisfaction and anxiety tics in teenage girls. The discussion moves on to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), health anxiety, emotionally based school avoidance and the terrifying issue of online sexual exploitation, which may have been aggravated during COVID lockdowns due to children spending more time online.

So how does Tooled Up Education help?

Dr Weston moves on to explain Tooled Up Education’s supporting role in helping school communities and families to understand and navigate these, and other, complex issues. Tooled Up resources translate the latest research into useable tips, enabling parents and teachers to collaborate and work together in all aspects of school life.      

Tooled Up shines a light in the darkness for educators, providing a ‘one stop shop’ for evidence-based material. In fact, if the library doesn’t contain what’s needed, then the Tooled Up team works with researchers to create the resources that are required. Recent collaborations include Rob Lightfoot of NACE (National Association for Able Children in Education), Professor Tamsin Ford (Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry) of Cambridge University and Dr Ingrid Obsuth (Senior Lecturer in Social Science) of The University of Edinburgh, to name just a few.

In a nutshell, Dr Weston describes Tooled Up Education as being a research arm to schools, families and organisations. 

Tooled Up teachers – how does it work for you? 

Teacher, Ciara Lowe, highlights the usability and efficacy of Tooled Up. Ciara is Designated Teacher for Safeguarding & Pastoral Lead at Friend’s School, Lisburn (Northern Ireland). She wastes no time in explaining how Tooled Up has transformed her working life, helping her to create working groups which support staff and encouraging her to engage in continuous and productive communication with parents. The whole community at Friend’s School uses Tooled Up resources, forging an aligned approach between school and family life.

Ciara describes the issues she sees in everyday school life and how she handles them. Hot topics include screen time, mobile phone use in school and the importance of building a ‘courage culture’ to help children cope with the challenges of everyday life.

The teacher-pupil relationship is a powerful one. Dr Weston suggests that staff know their pupils well and should always be watching for mental health concerns. If worried, asking open, non-judgemental questions and gently ‘nudging’ pupils, rather than pushing them, tends to be the most effective strategy.    

In the Q&A session that follows, Dr Weston highlights some fantastic resources in the Tooled Up library which can be used by teachers and parents alike to help build resilience and emotional literacy. The Mood Thermometer has gone down well in many of our primary schools and young people of all ages can benefit from our Coping Menu, which nudges them to think of strategies, things and people that make them feel better if they are having a bad day.

Finally, she pays tribute to The OLLIE Foundation and talks about our newly published collaborative work, Guidance for Educational Settings Following a Suicide or Sudden Death – a comprehensive and practical tool that will support leadership teams to create policies and procedures for their setting. It’s now available to anyone interested for free download.            

This is just a snapshot of all the information, tips and expertise imparted during this show. If you missed it, or if you’d simply like to listen again, click here.      

About Teachers Talk Radio

TTR launched in January 2021 and is a community radio station for teachers and educators. It is the biggest audio platform for educators in the UK with an expanding international listenership.