National mental health programme between schools and NHS

Pupils struggling with mental health are to benefit from more joined up care and support across schools, colleges and specialist NHS services, in a national roll out of a £9.3 million training scheme.

Every school, college and alternative provision will be offered training through a series of workshops as part of the Link Programme, with the most appropriate member of staff from each put forward to take part alongside mental health specialists. This is designed to improve partnerships with professional NHS mental health services, raise awareness of mental health concerns and improve referrals to specialist help when needed.

The four-year scheme will be led by the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, backed by the multi-million-pound government investment. It builds on 1,500 schools and colleges that have already taken up this training during the pilot stage of the programme, launched in 2015.

Starting in September, the training will be rolled out to schools and colleges in phases over four years, being offered to up to 22,000 schools and colleges, including alternative provision settings.

The Link Programme will deliver just under 1,000 training sessions across England involving two whole-day workshops for up to 20 schools at a time to cover all 22,000 schools, encouraging collaborative work so children do not fall between the cracks or experience poor transition between services.

One in nine young people aged 5 to 15 had a diagnosable mental health condition in 2017 and teenagers with a mental health disorder are more than twice as likely to have a mental disorder in adulthood. This package of measures is part of the Government’s plan to improve mental health support for children and young people, including identifying mental health issues before they become more acute.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said:

School and college should be a place where young people feel valued, supported and listened to – and I know that this is the case for so many thanks to the dedication of their teachers and support staff. But there are limits to what can be asked or expected of teachers – they are not, and should not, be mental health professionals.

That’s why this new training is important, by bringing school and college staff into the same room as NHS professionals and encouraging them to work together, sharing their expertise and making sure they have the information they need so that more pupils get the right help at the right time.

This builds on the significant measures we’ve already put in place to improve children’s wellbeing, including our new mandatory health education curriculum and the mental health first aid training being offered to schools and colleges.

Training will be prioritised in areas where schools and colleges are already attached to Mental Health Support Teams, following the Government’s announcement last December that these teams would be created in 25 ‘trailblazer’ areas.

The Government also confirmed today that 124 new Mental Health Support Teams will be created in 48 areas across the country. Each designated team will support around 20 schools and colleges in their area, helping speed up access to specialist services and building on support already in place from school counsellors, nurses, educational psychologists and the voluntary sector, so that more children and young people get the help and support they need, when they need it.

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