Sports stars back project to help Greater Manchester kids stay mentally healthy

  • World champion Thai boxer Rachael Mackenzie launches Greater Manchester schools pilot
  • 6 month rapid pilot will deliver mental health and emotional wellbeing support in over 30 primary and secondary schools
  • Backed by Mayor of Greater Manchester – with the ambition to roll this out in all schools and colleges across Greater Manchester

Supporting information:

One in ten children experience a mental health difficulty and now Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, the body overseeing the devolution of the area’s health and social care budget is launching a rapid schools pilot, with the help of world-class athletes, to support the emotional wellbeing of pupils.

Over 30 schools across Greater Manchester will be the first to benefit from specialist support for both pupils and teachers. Athletes such as world champion, Thai boxer Rachael Mackenzie and former England hockey star, Charlotte Hartley, will work with pupils across primary and secondary schools together with special educational needs schools and pupil referral units. Students will be supported to build their confidence and reach their full potential; coached in key life skills such as growing their self-esteem, learning creative thinking skills and coping strategies for challenges.

Each school will have a lead for mental health and they will be trained to understand and spot the signs of mental health issues in children and young people such as anxiety and stress. Teachers will be supported to work more effectively with children and young people experiencing mental health problems, In addition, they will have support and consultation directly with a specialist mental health team who will provide advice, information and support schools to access appropriate services if needed, in a timely way.

The programme is a new collaboration between Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, the Alliance for Learning Teaching School (part of Bright Futures Educational Trust), the Youth Sport Trust, 42nd Street and Place2Be. Schools from across Greater Manchester* will be involved in the pilot that will launch over the next couple of months. The vision is that the pilot will inform a Greater Manchester programme for all schools and colleges to access and benefit from.

This schools pilot is part of a major £134m four-year action plan to help to transform mental health in Greater Manchester, announced in July by Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership.

The overall investment programme – the biggest and most ambitious of its kind in the country – aims not only to put mental health on an equal footing with physical health, but to start to deliver the area’s vision of making sure that no child who needs mental health support will be turned away.


Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham said: “I want every child growing up in Greater Manchester to achieve their full potential both in and out of the classroom. That means ensuring that young people get the help and support they need as they navigate growing up in an increasingly insecure and challenging world. This schools pilot, using sport and professional athletes, is part of our work to transform mental health services in Greater Manchester and ensure we give all children the best possible start in life.”

Dr Sandeep Ranote, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, children’s mental health lead for Greater Manchester – and incumbent Medical Director at North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said: “I am delighted that Greater Manchester is leading the way with the roll out of the rapid schools pilot. Many children and young people spend a lot of their day in school and as a Partnership we want to provide that support in a familiar setting. We should look after our emotional health and wellbeing as we look after our physical health. Our children and young people deserve the best start in life and our focus is on making sure this happens and helping prevent problems in the future.”

Lisa Fathers, who is Director of the Alliance for Learning and is leading the drive into the pilot schools said: “The schools – both primary and secondary – who are involved are so excited about the positive impact this will have on their students. This collaboration between the partners involved and the schools is really exciting and will no doubt pave the way for further innovative approaches.”

Chris Wright, Head of Wellbeing at the Youth Sport Trust said: “We are excited by this innovative approach to addressing school related stress and anxiety through physical activity and wellbeing support for students. We are particularly pleased that Greater Manchester is acknowledging the evidence that addressing both the physical and emotional needs of young people is more effective in preventing mental health issues in the long term. We know that declining physical and emotional wellbeing is preventing young people achieving and this approach will be pioneering in helping them achieve their potential.”

Dr Patrick Johnston, Director of Learning at Place2Be said: “We’re delighted to be a part of this exciting new collaboration. We know from our experience of working directly with schools over the last 23 years that they play a crucial role in supporting their pupils; creating a culture of openness, identifying problems early and providing support in a familiar environment. Providing high quality training for teachers and school leaders will help to give them the understanding and skills to deliver a ‘whole school approach’ to mental health, which will ultimately ensure that more children and young people can get the support they need.”

Simone Spray, Chief Executive at Manchester based 42nd Street said “The role of educational organisations in the early intervention and prevention of mental health with children and young people is critical and we are so pleased that this pilot includes listening to the children and young people themselves. I really hope the learning can inform more work across Greater Manchester, involving more partners and setting the national bar for how schools and colleges can contribute the mental health of our future generation.”

Event launch:

This took place at Heathfield Primary School, Bolton on 9th March.

  • Picture 1 shows athlete Rachael Mackenzie with pupils
  • Picture 2 shows athlete Rachael Mackenzie with pupils in an action shot
  • Picture 3 shows pupil at Heathfield Primary School
  • Picture 4 shows partners representing the pilot l-r: Rachael Mackenzie (Youth Sport Trust), Dr Sandeep Ranote (GMHSC Partnership), Lisa Fathers (Alliance for Learning), Debbie Simmons (Place2Be), Simone Spray (42nd Street), Christ Wright (Youth Sport Trust) and Zulfi Jiva (GMHSC Partnership).

Rachael MacKenzie with pupils Rachael Mckenzie with pupils action Pupil at Heathfield Primary School Schools pilot partners





Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership is governed by the Health and Social Care Board, which meets regularly in public. The Partnership comprises the local authority and NHS organisations in Greater Manchester, representatives from primary care, NHS England, the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector, Healthwatch, Greater Manchester Police and the Fire and Rescue Service. In April 2016 we took responsibility for the £6 billion Greater Manchester health and social care budget. In addition we have responsibility for a £450 million transformation fund (over five years) to help make the changes needed to dramatically improve health and social care and make sure we can afford everything we will need to look after our population in the future. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and visit us online.

For further information:

For further information please contact Laura Conrad, Communications and Engagement Manager:   / 0161 625 7463 or 07976 658330.

Alliance for Learning
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Proud to part of the Bright Futures Education Trust