Minds Ahead is a social enterprise aiming to change pupils’ mental health for the better by providing the specialist qualifications to school leaders, teachers, and staff. There is a well-documented mental health crisis in schools, and Minds Ahead feel the most effective way to support is to have a properly qualified member of staff within each educational community.
Practically, those taking the qualifications are supported develop frameworks and strategies that draw on the latest academic research from around the globe but are tailored to a setting’s unique needs. They develop the confidence and skills to effectively support mental health needs of pupils, staff, and parents in their school community which they practice alongside studying. The benefits to the whole school community can be felt immediately. You can read more about what this looks like in practice through A day in the life of a School Mental Health specialist student and also a case study of the changes made by Headteacher, Kerry.
In the video below, you can hear from Dean (Chief Executive) and Denise (Business development Director), discussing how trading income plays a role in Minds Ahead and also some of the successes and learning they've seen along the way. Below the video you can also read some more context of their trading and enterprise journey, and how the Enterprise Development Programme provided support.
Through the Enterprise Development Programme, Minds Ahead were supported to design and launch a new Masters level Qualification – the School Mental Health Specialist Programme. A three-year programme for students, so a significant commitment, but in turn provides access to three years of income for each student, and therefore adds security to the organisation’s cashflow.
The organisation has learnt plenty along the way, particularly around their marketing strategy – for example Dean, CEO reflected that:
“In hindsight, we definitely should have completed more market research in the design phase, particularly with the types of individuals that are target participants. Our predominant focus was the school perspective and those in leadership positions, but given the time commitment, you need buy-in from those participating.”
Additionally, the revenue model of the qualification has altered through the process – instead of the majority of paying customers being schools as first envisaged, ever-tightening school budgets means the more common scenario is self-paying individuals often via personal post-graduate loans and savings. This has also changed their marketing plans more recently to focus on enticing the individual.
On a commercial level the first year of the qualification made a loss, but Minds Ahead were committed to making it work as it felt a key part of their organisation’s mission. With tweaks in marketing and the revenue model, they were able to generate student numbers which led to a breakeven scenario in its second full year. As the organisation approach the start of their third-year operating course, they are on course to achieve student numbers which would mean the course is generating surplus which can be used to support other programmes or potentially offer subsidy to some qualifying students. This is a great example of trading and enterprise activity not often leading to immediate financial success, but it can be achieved gradually over several years.