What is professional development for mental health promotion in schools like? Perspectives from school leaders and teachers in 100 Australian KidsMatter primary schools
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Mental health promotion is a very new area of learning for many school staff. Using data from questionnaires, written reports and focussed interviews, this paper reports school leaders' and teachers' perspectives about the professional development program that accompanied the KidsMatter Primary Mental Health Promotion (KidsMatter) pilot initiative in 100 Australian schools. Findings include that 50 to 60 per cent of staff strongly agreed that the professional development program had improved their knowledge and capabilities. Thematic analysis indicated that the professional development confirmed existing good practices, provided opportunities for raising staff awareness of mental health strengths and difficulties, reduced stigma, provided a common language, and provided a mechanism for including all staff in processes of school renewal. In particular, the enthusiasm and expertise of the KidsMatter Project Officers was highly valued by staff. The thematic analysis also indicated ways for continued improvements in school-based professional development, including assessing relevance to local contexts, sufficiency, timetabling, and accommodating staff turnover. Conceptualising professional development as professional learning for school renewal, managing the sequencing of learning activities to accommodate initial and sustained learning, drawing from the distributed expertise of inter-disciplinary teams, and exploiting on-line technologies are suggested as ways of sustaining professional learning for mental health promotion in schools.