Hopwood Hall reaches finals of prestigious education awards after trauma informed approach to mental health support

Two North West colleges have reached the finals of the Association of Colleges’ Beacon Awards – the equivalent of the Oscars in the Further Education sector.

Hopwood Hall College and Bolton College, part of the GM Colleges Group, have been nominated for working collaboratively to become trauma informed colleges, and are in the running for the NOCN Group Award for Mental Health and Wellbeing. 

The Association of Colleges’ Beacon Awards celebrate the best and most innovative practice among UK colleges each year. 

The NOCN Group Award for Mental Health and Wellbeing celebrates the important work colleges are doing to support the mental health and wellbeing of their learners and staff. The rise in ill health amongst learners and the greater public is of great concern and is attracting heightened attention nationally.

Both colleges are well on the way to realising their vision to become trauma informed colleges by 2021, after seeing a significant increase in the number of learners presenting with mental health and wellbeing issues. 

It was in seeking understanding for presenting behaviour that each college came to the trauma informed approach. In simple terms, asking not ‘what is wrong with you?’ but ‘what is happening for you?’.

Looking to champion the voices of vulnerable learners, the colleges created a comprehensive response for their own institutions to support these learners, allowing them to fulfil their potential and thrive. Each college takes a whole organisation approach to mental health and wellbeing to embed trauma informed practice across all aspects of their work.

The project is funded from a programme of work with the Association of Colleges (AoC), with funding from the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership.

The reputation of the work is growing in momentum and support; nine other colleges from across the country having approached Bolton College and Hopwood Hall College for advice, hoping to build similar models within their own provisions. 

Both colleges have also featured in a resource video for GMHSC Partnership, as shining examples of good practice when responding to the increasing number of people experiencing poor mental health. 

Hopwood Hall College and Bolton College will go head-to-head against Callywith College and Bridgend College when the winners are announced in spring 2021.

Julia Heap, Principal and CEO of Hopwood Hall College, said: 

“We are so proud to be announced as a finalist college in these awards!

“The wellbeing of our learners is at the heart of everything we do and we remain dedicated to developing an even stronger understanding of the support we can offer.

“The collaboration with Bolton College has been such an integral part of the process and has proven beneficial to both our college communities.”

Nimisha Mistry-Miah, Head of Student Support and Equality at Hopwood Hall College, said: 

“This recognition is validation that what we’re doing is making a difference in the lives of our students. 

“While this is a journey and not something that can be achieved overnight, we’re making great progress with increasing the understanding of mental health in young people.

“A huge part of this has been working with Bolton College. We’ve been able to challenge and expand each other’s thinking during this process, which has been so valuable.”

David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, said: 

“The work colleges do on wellbeing often gets overlooked. 

“But institutions and especially these final three have shown a whole college mental health strategy that impacts on improving teaching and learning and effective support. All this great, much-needed work enables students to feel secure and able to learn.”

Joanne Green, Director of Quality at Bolton College, said: 

“We are absolutely delighted to have this work recognised by NOCN.


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