Staff and students at Truro and Penwith College are celebrating after an initiative to improve mental health and wellbeing received double recognition at a prestigious national award ceremony.

The Association of College’s (AoC) Beacon Awards were held in a glittering evening ceremony at Birmingham this week to celebrate the best and most innovative practice among UK further education and sixth form colleges.

Truro and Penwith College won the AoC’s Beacon Award for Mental Health and Wellbeing for supporting students with mental health issues to succeed, and for promoting a culture of well-being across all stakeholders, students and staff.

But then the evening got better still for the college when, from all the Awards bestowed, just one is then chosen to receive the “Leading Light” Award – and the winner of that accolade was also Truro and Penwith College.

The College’s winning Mental Health and Wellbeing project was commended for underpinning staff development to ensure better understanding of a range of conditions, mental health first aid strategies, and the individualised support mechanisms and specialisms available in the college’s Student Services and through outside agencies. In addition, a number staff took on ‘champion’ roles to promote mental health support within their own programme area team.

The start of the initiative saw the appointment of a full time mental health nurse alongside the existing counselling provision. There followed further specialist appointments to support mental health, and an increase in the safeguarding team to include a full-time officer working with 12 other staff including a Governor.

The award also recognised success in increasing staff and student participation in physical and recreation activities as a mechanism to increasing mental health and wellbeing. The College's Health, Wellbeing and Sport (HWS) programme received praise for innovative approaches in developing sport activators from across the student and staff body, and for providing over 40 free activities each week, open to students and to staff, to encourage participation in physical activity.

College Principal David Walrond received the award on behalf of the College and was joined on stage at the presentations in Birmingham by Emma Seward-Adams, the College’s Head of Student Services, and College personnel assistant Becci Smith.

Emma Seward-Adams, Team Leader for Student Services, said: “This award is a wonderful reflection of the collective culture and our priorities here. Everyone has mental health, just as they have physical health. Colleagues here understand the importance and the inter-relationship of these, and the assessors acknowledged that.”

Carole Stott MBE, Chair of the AoC Charitable Trust, said: “Every year the Beacon Awards receive many excellent submissions and the high standard made it hard for assessors to determine the winning application in each category. Truro and Penwith College can be rightly proud to be named as the winners of their category.”

The “Leading Light” Award recipient is selected by Baroness Margaret Sharp, President of the Association of Colleges’ Charitable Trust.

Baroness Sharp said: "I chose this programme because mental health issues are such an important aspect of society at present, particularly for young people where CAMHS has really failed to provide the necessary support. I like the whole college approach, the emphasis put on staff well-being as well as students, and the degree to which the programme pulls into partnership other community agencies seeking to tackle the same issues. There is so much in this innovative programme that can be copied and adapted by other colleges and I hope that the recognition given by this award will get other colleges following suit."

College Principal David Walrond said: “To have won the National Beacon Award in such a crucially important area of our work is a wonderful tribute to colleagues here. Then, amongst the celebration of so many excellent Beacon achievements by colleges nationally, the extra recognition of the ‘Leading Light’ Award made it a very special evening for everyone at Truro and Penwith College.”