THIS year Upper Hunter schools have embraced a new approach to building kids’ emotional resilience.
And now there’s a push on for Scone, Denman, Muswellbrook, Merriwa, Aberdeen, and Murrurundi to take the next step and become the nation’s first regional positive education hub.
Peak body Positive Education Schools Association (PESA) will travel to Scone next week to meet with communities calling for a well-being framework to be implemented across entire schools. While any deal with PESA is far from confirmed, locals are rallying ahead of Monday's meeting at the Scone Town Hall.
Scone woman Pauline Carrigan is a key force behind the push.
“It is not exaggerating to say mental illness has become epidemic in some rural communities... and we are struggling to deal with the problem,” Mrs Carrigan said.
Mrs Carrigan acknowledged state government's well-being framework, but said NSW schools often lacked the resources to implement meaningful programs. In response an Education Department spokesman said government had also funded extra school counselors and well-being services, and would leave schools to make their own decisions to engage with external providers.
Teachers in the Upper Hunter are already singing the praises of positive education after being introduced through Mrs Carrigan and her foundation, Where There’s a Will, which was set up to raise funds for well-being programs and mental health first aid training.
“In Australia when we’ve had a problem, we’ve educated through the schools,” she said. “In 1981 they told us the sun was killing us. Through a national campaign, they educated through schools to be sun safe.”
More than 20 of the region’s schools have shown an interest in joining a regional well-being pilot program, including St Joseph’s Primary School, Merriwa. Principal Helen Whale said teachers across the region had seen a rise in youth mental health issues.
“It is certainly something we have not seen in previous decades,” she said. “And we hear the same from other teachers across NSW.”
Mr Carrigan said the meeting with PESA on Monday was by no means a sealed deal – more of an invitation for schools, parents, and local organisations to show their enthusiasm and learn more about the positive education philosophy.
“We’re not wanting to get ahead of ourselves, but we think there is real potential there for (a region-wide program) to work,” she said.
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