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News > School News > 'Promoting health and wellbeing is in the DNA of the school' - pastoral team is further strengthened

'Promoting health and wellbeing is in the DNA of the school' - pastoral team is further strengthened

28 Oct 2022
School News
(L-R) Octavia Wilkinson, Charlotte McRea, Lynsey Procter, Jo Downie.
(L-R) Octavia Wilkinson, Charlotte McRea, Lynsey Procter, Jo Downie.

EXPERIENCED counsellor and leading mental health advocate Jo Downie (pictured right) has been appointed as Director of Pupil Wellbeing, as Dame Allan’s remains committed to providing exceptional pastoral care across the Schools.

Mrs Downie, a long-serving teacher and former Assistant Head of Sixth Form who joined Dame Allan’s in 2003, stepped into the new role in September and sits on the Senior Management Team, working closely with Vice Principal (Pastoral) Natalie Shaw to promote pupil wellbeing in the senior school.

She is now Designated Safeguarding Lead and Mental Health Lead, and will build on the excellent work of Angela Brady to deliver safe, effective and timely PSHE lessons, fully equipping students with the skills they need to thrive in the modern world. 

Mrs Downie said: “I'm passionate about promoting wellbeing and looking for opportunities for the early identification of students who are exhibiting signs of mental ill health, as well as looking for ways to boost student welfare and resilience.

“I firmly believe in the importance of psychoeducation as a way of doing this, and hope that I can use my specialist knowledge of counselling and mental health to educate staff, pupils and parents.”

Mrs Downie has long been involved in pastoral care and took her first counselling qualifications in 2007 - 2009. She went on to achieve a Youth Mental Health First Aid qualification, a NCFE certificate in Understanding Children and Young People’s Mental Health, and a HMC Pastoral Leadership Qualification. In 2022, she completed a Foundation Degree in person-centred counselling at the University of Sunderland’s partner college, Tyne Metropolitan College.

Last year, she made the Top 10 regional shortlist for Europe in the Cambridge University Press Dedicated Teacher Awards, having been nominated by a Dame Allan’s student and their family for her dedicated pastoral support. The global awards attracted 13,000 nominations from across 112 countries, with just 60 teachers chosen for six regional shortlists.

Dame Allan’s strong pastoral team includes school nurse Lynsey Procter, Art Psychotherapist Charlotte McRae, counsellor Paul McSparron, and trained child and adolescent psychotherapist Octavia Wilkinson, who recently took a leadership role to oversee the Schools' counselling provision.

As Head of Counselling, Mrs Wilkinson is involved in the screening and assessment of all new referrals to the counselling service in order that Dame Allan’s offers the most appropriate form of pastoral care to each pupil.

She explained: “The school takes a tiered approach, meaning pupils are receiving pastoral support at all levels, from daily contact with a form tutor to external referrals to specialist, outside agencies where necessary.

“Dame Allan’s has focused on building provisions and taking a more holistic approach to mental health, meaning parents and teachers are involved at all levels. Plus, pastoral care is much more visible now that we operate from the Snug, our fantastic hub in the heart of the senior school.”

The Snug was created as a positive space to house support services operating outside the curriculum and provide a dedicated place where pupils feel safe, heard and understood. 

Mrs Downie added: “It's fantastic that we are able to offer so much by way of counselling provision and pastoral support, but promoting health and wellbeing is something that is in the DNA of the school.

“Pastoral support is happening in every corner - in the dining room, school office, classrooms, labs, and out on the field - by well-trained teaching and support staff who are genuinely committed to the safeguarding and wellbeing of all of our students.”

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