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PNECET Supporting Transition Of Preston Year 6 Children From Primary To High School

17 August 2022

Mary Hewitt, the Trust's Mental Health Transformation Officer.

Preston North End Community and Education Trust [PNECET] has appointed a Mental Health Transformation Officer to support children from five Preston primary schools with their transition to high school.

Mary Hewitt has joined the staff of PNECET, Preston North End’s official charity [Charity No.1137703], as Mental Health Transformation Officer and will form part of the Health and Wellbeing team, one of three strands of work delivered by the Trust – along with Community Engagement and Education.

Headstart is a new initiative being piloted across Lancashire and South Cumbria to support the mental health of year 6 children that are transitioning into secondary school, which is being delivered alongside the EFL Trust and three other club community organisations (CCOs) aiming to support to children’s mental health through a new two-year project.

The new mental health programme is designed to help Year 6 pupils with their transition from primary school to secondary school. The programme will take a whole-class approach with one-to-one sessions being offered to all pupils who may benefit from additional support.

As part of the programme, pupils will take part in group sessions, which will cover the most relevant topics that can affect children between the ages of 11 and 12, including relationships, body image, stress and more.

Within sessions delivered by our Mental Health Transformation Officer, pupils will be given new strategies and methods for managing their mental health through the programme, which will be delivered within school time and tailored to fit around the learning of identified children in need.

Mary Hewitt said: “I’m excited to be taking on the role of Mental Health Transformation Officer to support identified children in Preston and the surrounding areas who are making the transition from primary school to secondary school.

“We hope to help children enjoy as smooth a transition as possible between education settings at a key stage of their personal development and therefore support them to manage their mental health in a positive way.”

Head of Health and Wellbeing Jessica Riley added: “The Headstart programme is an exciting addition to our Health and Wellbeing and Education strands of work, in which we hope to inspire children to continue to achieve their goals and live healthy and active lifestyles, all while utilising the power and appeal of Preston North End.”

PNECET, Fleetwood Town Community Trust, Morecambe Community Sports Trust and Acccrington Stanley Community Trust are delivering the programme alongside the EFL Trust after they were awarded a grant of £333,709 from NHS Charities Together.

Following a pilot this year, the programme will be rolled out to the other EFL Community Club Organisations also located within the Lancashire and South Cumbria region.

The programme aims to reduce the strain on the NHS by targeting those children currently accessing or at risk of needing to access children’s mental health services. We will work closely with local primary schools, their pupils and their families through a dedicated Mental Health Transformation Officer based at Deepdale.

Programmes like Headstart have been accelerated after the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, raised concerns of the increasing rate of mental disorder in children.

In 2020, one in six (16.0 per cent) children aged 5 to 16 years were identified as having a probable mental disorder, increasing from one in nine (10.8 per cent) in 2017.  This has been further impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and has seen waiting lists to access mental health services soar.

Adrian Bradley, Head of Health & Wellbeing at the EFL Trust, said: “We are delighted to be delivering Headstart and in doing so, directly supporting the mental health of primary school children and their transition into secondary school.

“We hope that through Headstart, we can intervene earlier and make a longer lasting positive impact on children’s lives and their wellbeing.

“Our CCOs are well connected within the community and health projects like Headstart can help us address the local needs of our communities and achieve the EFL Trust’s vision of a stronger, healthier, more active community.”

­­­­­­­­­Ellie Orton OBE, Chief Executive of NHS Charities Together, said: “Mental health problems have long been increasing among children, and sadly during the pandemic many of these issues were exacerbated further.

“Projects such as Headstart can help change this and we want to thank everyone at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, the EFL Trust and the key community organisations who have helped make this work possible.

“By increasing access to mental health support at a critical time in children’s lives, we can both take pressure off the NHS and make an important difference for vulnerable young people across Lancashire and South Cumbria.”

Paula Wilson, Head of Charities at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Charity, said:  “It has been a privilege to be able to support this amazing project that will help tackle some of the out-

of-hospital healthcare issues that have been exacerbated over recent years by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I am looking forward to seeing the difference this funding will make to young people across Lancashire and South Cumbria.”

For more information about the Headstart project with PNECET, please email

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