In 2016 Edupod-founder, Dr Asha Patel was working in forensic mental health services on a caseload of around 15 people all of whom were high profile murderers and sex offenders. She noticed all their stories and the work she was doing was going back into their childhood and they all had a theme of not being able to access help and support in their early life experiences, and particularly within education.
What these people were saying is that all this help they were getting now was too late.
Asha wanted to take the model from healthcare and put it into education. saying: “I wanted to transform the system of education. It felt like the curriculum had advanced, but the practices within education hadn't.
“This was then having an impact on students with emerging mental health difficulties and actually looked at it from the perspective of early intervention. If we have an impact before something happens rather than be reactive, then surely we can enable more people to access help sooner rather than later.”
The idea was first tested in a school in London for students with social, emotional and mental health difficulties. The school had become what seemed like a dumping ground for the students who weren't able to access their learning because their mental health needs weren't being attended to.
One of the students had completed suicide. The school and the staff felt out of their depth. They didn't know what to do or where to go. They had good intentions but didn't have the skillset.
Asha explained: “I created my own take on working with the school to implement a whole school approach and changing things systematically.
“I'd had a look at other people's approaches and it seemed very much like a sticking plaster approach. They were bringing in counsellors, but then as soon as the counsellor left, the work was undone or as soon as the session had finished for the hour, the student was back into a toxic environment again.
“It was about me sharing my skills and my knowledge with other people because they see the children and their own colleagues more than I could ever in a day.
“Ofsted came in and recognising the approach and seeing the impact it had at the school, Ofsted gave the school a rating of good across the board and behavioural incidents had reduced by 90%.
The approach would increase staff retention and reduce agency staff costs. It would increase children accessing learning and enable them to stay within the classroom.
Children were accessing help, talking about mental health openly and talking about how they were feeling.
The team had proved the model. They’d been there, seen it and done it. It wasn't just a theory or a research position.
Their reputation grew.
People started to ask more about what they did. The reputation of Edupod’s parent company, Innovating Minds, grew. And so did the team.
Innovating Minds was able to create a culture of being supportive and sharing because there was a purpose they were able not to be precious about what they were doing. We want to enable more schools to access it.
By April 2019 Dr Patel reached a crossroads: “We had to decide. do we continue as we are and just grow steadily even though we’d reached a point where we can't meet the demand for service, or do we pivot and create an online platform?
“People were saying we love what you do but we can't afford it. Enquiries were coming from across the UK and we couldn't find people to recruit into post and in particular, they all wanted contact with me.”
The decision to pivot and create an online platform was made and Edupod was born.
The ambition is to roll out Edupod to every school to access and build their own mental health programme. The ambition is to get Edupod nationally recognised as the gold standard.
It should be that schools have mental health as a natural part of the curriculum. Edupod should be a part of how schools operate.