Jane Millward wants to put people first when she takes the reins at one of England’s most prominent multi-academy trusts in September.
One area where E-Act has developed a reputation is mental health, and in 2017 it talked about plans to train all its staff as mental health first aiders.
It was initiative Millward oversaw, and she recalls crying last year when she listened to a Year 9 girl at one E-Act school outline about her own experiences.
“She talked about being isolated and she talked about not having any friends and she talked about self-harming, and she talked about when she tried to kill herself. And then she said, ‘because of my teachers here, I’m now better’.
“Did I have any idea, if I’m honest, of how many children self-harm? I didn’t, and I don’t think we have any idea as a nation how much this is impacting on children, and we have to support them.
“I can sit here and talk about it being really important to get English and maths, and absolutely it is really important because that’s their passport out, but we have got children who don’t know if they want to stay alive.”
Now, she wants to extend the help available for adults at the trust.
“Looking at our work with people, I want to train adults in mental health for adults,” she says.
“Any line manager, I believe, should be a qualified mental health first aider, so that when they meet with people who they manage they understand issues that our staff may be facing and can put in support for them, so we look after our staff better and give them the support they need.”