December 13 2019
By The Ian Potter Foundation
In December 2019, the Foundation awarded a major grant of $500,000 to support a pilot project led by Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI) in partnership with the Victorian Department of Education and Training and the Melbourne Graduate School of Education. The Mental Health in Primary Schools (MHiPS) project will design, develop, implement and evaluate a primary school step-tiered, system-level approach to child mental health.
The Foundation's grant matches State Government funding to enable the pilot project which will trial a tailored mental health program in up to 10 Victorian primary schools. The project will provide evidence-based training and resources to support dedicated school staff to better identify and respond to the mental health issues of pupils. It will also help schools build strong connections with community-based health and other services so that students and families can be linked to these services as appropriate.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the Foundation awarded a further $500,000 in December 2020 (FY21) to enable a second year of the MHiPS Pilot and the evaluation of the implementation and impact of the expanded MHiPS program.
The MHiPS model is based around training and integrating Mental Health and Wellbeing Coordinators (MHWC) in primary schools to build the capacity of schools to support student mental health and wellbeing.
Implementation of the pilot to date was evaluated through a survey of all participating schools in July and August 2021. A total of 489 schools and teaching staff across 26 pilot schools in Victoria participated. Over 95% of school staff agreed that implementation of the MHWC model had increased the confidence of classroom teachers and had increased the school’s capacity to support student mental health.
Given these promising results, The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System recommended that the MHiPS program be further evaluated, with the view to further statewide roll-out. The Department of Education is now funding the next expansion and evaluation phase of the MHiPS program, which will see MHiPS expand to 100 schools across Victoria in 2022.