Kids Matter Overview
KidsMatter is an Australian mental health and well-being initiative set in primary schools and early childhood education and care services (like preschools, kindergartens and day care centres). It’s a framework that helps these places take care of children's mental health needs by:
- creating positive school and early childhood communities
- teaching children skills for good social and emotional development
- working together with families
- recognising and getting help for children with mental health problems.
KidsMatter was developed by mental health professionals and education and childcare staff in response to the high rates of school-age children with mental health difficulties and the problems they face getting help. It is is a partnership between education and health sectors and is funded by the Australian Government and beyondblue.
It’s a fact that children can be taught how to cope with their emotions, to bounce back from problems, and to develop positive relationships – this is called ‘social and emotional learning’.
It’s also a fact that a child’s family is the first and biggest influence on their mental health. Basically, families can teach children these skills as early as possible in life – even from when they’re babies!
KidsMatter Primary is a mental health and wellbeing framework for primary schools and is proven to make a positive difference to the lives of Australian children.
KidsMatter Primary provides the methods, tools and support to help schools work with parents and carers, health services and the wider community, to nurture happy, balanced kids.
KidsMatter Primary is a flexible, whole-school approach to improving children’s mental health and wellbeing for primary schools. It can be tailored to schools' local needs.
Through KidsMatter Primary, schools undertake a two-to three-year cyclical process in which they plan and take action to be a positive community; one that is founded on respectful relationships and a sense of belonging and inclusion, and that promotes:
- social and emotional learning (including evidence-based social and emotional learning programs)
- working authentically with parents, carers and families
- support for students who may be experiencing mental health difficulties.
KidsMatter is an Australian Primary Schools Mental Health Initiative. It aims to improve the mental health and wellbeing of children, reduce mental health problems amongst children, and achieve greater support for children experiencing mental health difficulties, and their families.
A comprehensive evaluation of KidsMatter Primary in 101 schools across Australia was conducted by Flinders University of South Australia. The findings show KidsMatter Primary had a positive impact on schools, children, parents and carers.
Key findings include:
- Improved student mental health and wellbeing such as optimism and coping skill
- Reduced mental health difficulties such as emotional symptoms, hyperactivity, conduct and peer problems
- Improvements in students’ school-work
- Improved teacher capacity to identify students experiencing mental health difficulties
- Improved teacher knowledge on how to improve students’ social and emotional skills
KidsMatter also draws from the World Health Organization's (WHO) Health Promoting School’s framework. This advocates a whole-school model of promotion, prevention and early intervention to support children’s mental health and wellbeing.
It focuses on 3 core areas of operation in schools:
- ethos and environment
- curriculum teaching and learning
- partnerships and services.
KidsMatter captures these core areas within its framework but explicitly includes the influence and involvement of parents and carers at each level of intervention.
The model has also been modified to highlight the important role schools and ECEC services play in supporting students experiencing mental health difficulties, and working with parents and carers to facilitate help-seeking and referral pathways within and outside of the education setting.
(Adapted from World Health Organization, 1994)