CfESEND blog: Weston College on making mental health and emotional wellbeing a priority

Blog by Sam Mayhew, Dean of Faculty at Weston College, for the Centres for Excellence in SEND programme.

On Wednesday 17 March 2021, a second mental health conference was held, virtually, with over 200 teachers, SEND practitioners, managers, leaders, and employers excitedly joining from across the country. It was a privilege to share how the Centre for Excellence in SEND at Weston College, led by the Principal Dr Paul Phillips CBE, has shaped the workforce development to create an organisational culture of positive mental health where staff and learners’ wellbeing is a top priority.

Keynote speakers included Nigel Owens, Welsh and international rugby referee, who discussed his own mental health struggles and self-help strategies and how he has overcome these, which was truly inspiring.

We were extremely fortunate in being able to share, for only the second airing, an excerpt from the Big House Production’s “The Ballad of Corona V”, which explored the aspect of unconscious bias in relation to exclusion. Nick Elston, of ‘Forging People’ fame shared his wisdom on the lived experience of anxiety and provided suggestions of how to support sufferers, to overcome their difficulties, on their return to the college environment.

In addition, there was a presentation from our own Mental Health Specialist Practitioners. Georgie Ford, talked about the power of emotional language and literacy and Ben Knocks, Director of Student Experience, demonstrated the innovative ‘Let’s Chat’ project with a wide range of toolkits available to support staff and students. These can be accessed at

One comment:

“WOW Nigel Owens and Big House were amazing, listening to real life experiences has made me think more about peer support and how we need to use this with our learners.”

If you missed the event, do check out the recording on the SEND site where you’ll find lots of other exciting activities to join in the coming year.

Brew can do it

Text invite for 'Brew Can Do It' chat groupParents/carers of learners with SEND from across our college community have expressed the need to have an opportunity to chat to other people in similar situations during this most recent lockdown, as many of the learners are extremely vulnerable and are required to isolate. 

We created an informal and unpressurised environment for parents/carers to access additional support. By accessing the virtual platform, they were able to create routines, structures and activities within the home environment that supported learner outcomes. Information, advice, and guidance has also been provided on transitions, social care providers and housing opportunities, post college.

“Brew Can Do It” is an informal MS Teams meeting which is facilitated by the Prep for Life team.

Since the weekly group was established, there has been a positive atmosphere and parents/carers have left feeling optimistic about their learner’s future, post college.

“Thank you Weston College, not only are you thinking of my son and how you can creatively support him whilst he is not able to access the Sensory Learning Base, due to his health care needs, you are thinking of me too and my needs as a parent of someone with profound and complex needs by providing this weekly session to connect with others in similar situations.”

“As our young people are either bused or taxied into college, as parents we don’t have any opportunities to meet up at the college gate and chat, so this group is our virtual equivalent of meeting up and having a coffee! I have gained lots of information from other parents and carers.”

It has become a real lifeline and supportive network, full of useful information about topics, especially considering what will happen when learners leave college including; supported living, housing options, benefits, voluntary work opportunities, social clubs, making time for us as carers etc… This has been so useful during this latest lockdown, to reduce the isolation and build connectivity for parents/carers of young people with profound and complex needs. A lesson learnt that we will continue to facilitate in the years to come.

Tourette Syndrome webinar

Tourettes Action logoThis month we were pleased to welcome Ashley Curry from Tourette’s Action to deliver a webinar about Tourette syndrome, a much-misunderstood condition.

Having suffered with Tourette’s himself, now recovered, Ashley is a great ambassador for Tourette’s Action, who provide information and support to sufferers and their families as well as professionals. He was able to describe what it is like to suffer from Tourette’s, to help dispel some myths (it is not all about swearing) and give some useful tips on supporting individuals in the classroom.

We were able to share our own experience of supporting a young person to devise a programme of study to enable him to excel in his chosen subject. If you were not able to join us, you can find some great resources at Tourette’s Action, including insightful articles from people who are sufferers and those who provide support. There is a wealth of information about getting a diagnosis, a blog, useful videos, events and much more. If you missed this webinar you can view the recording via the SEND site

Emotional Literacy: Workshop

Following the success of the Mental Wealth Summit where we introduce the concept of ‘Emotional Literacy’ we have developed this virtual workshop. This focuses on the ability to understand emotions, actively listen to others, and empathise with them as well as the ability to express emotions productively. There are 5 main areas within Emotional Literacy: self-awareness; emotional control; self-motivation; empathy and relationship skills. This 2-hour workshop will enable you to develop and increase your emotion vocabulary and allow for the development of appropriate strategies and new tools for future emotional intelligence.

If you would like further details on the above courses, please do not hesitate to contact us at

Help us to help you!

We are about to move to phase three of the Centre for Excellence in SEND when the focus will be on some exciting areas for development. These will include:

  • Ensuring seamless transitions between school and college
  • A whole college inclusive approach
  • Creating a sustainable SEND motivational career structure
  • Employer engagement and inclusive workplaces
  • Developing specialist provision to meet the complexity of need. 

We want to hear from you about any areas for which you would like more activities and support, in relation to our theme of ‘People’. We would also welcome feedback on any of our events or those of our colleagues in the other two Centres, Derby College and City College Norwich, which can be done by following this link.

Key Contact Information

Please get in touch if you would like to find out more about the work of our CfE in SEND (People). We’re keen to hear from anyone who would like to work collaboratively with the CfESEND, so please do get in touch with your suggestions and ideas via

Bookings for all courses and events are via the ETF Course booking system which can be found at ETF Course bookings.

For further details of webinar recordings, resources and toolkits can be found on the ETF Centres for Excellence in SEND.





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