Mental health services for schools in England
Understanding and mapping your local service landscape is an important factor in planning and improving children’s access to support.
Schools promote children’s social and emotional skills and mental health and wellbeing through the curriculum, RSHE and wider cross-curricular activity – all within an overarching framework of a whole-school approach to mental health.
For children who are beginning to struggle or are exposed to mounting risks that may challenge and undermine their mental health, accessible and effective in-school help can be provided through pastoral support, targeted, small group work or counselling.
With good mental health awareness, school staff can also help steer children and families to more specialist mental health support in the local community.
Support available for schools
Many schools use their Pupil Premium funding for mental health support and interventions for pupils.
These could include:
- Teacher training: There are many different mental health training providers in England. These may be charities delivering in-person training, like Place2Be’s Mental Health Champions training or YoungMinds who have a range of training options. Charities like the Anna Freud Centre also offer different online training courses suitable for schools across the UK.
- Mental health interventions: Some schools may consider running specific mental health and wellbeing programmes. Some of these may be free, like the Link programme, while others may cost money, like PATHS® or Jigsaw.
- In-school counselling: School counselling is not mandatory in England, but some schools may choose to invest in counselling services for pupils. You could hire individual counsellors to work in your school via organisations like the BACP, speak to your local authority about already available school counselling services, or work with organisations who offer school counselling services like The Spark.
In-school interventions and programmes
If your school wants to commission an in-school mental health service or intervention, you will need to:
- Make sure it is evidenced-based, safe and effective, and delivered by qualified and experienced professionals. Always ask a service provider to share their credentials and evidence base with you.
- Be clear about what your aims are – what you want to change/improve, who will benefit most and how you will measure progress.
- Research and assess the programme/intervention so that you understand how it could be implemented in your school and how it could integrate with other activities.
- Make sure it offers value for money and is cost-effective.
Consider how the programme/intervention would be delivered/accessed and be clear on the standards of service and level of quality assurance offered. Ask advice from local commissioners if unsure
Broader community services
How services are provided to support children’s mental health in a local area will vary a great deal. It is therefore difficult to provide clear and prescriptive advice on what range of services schools might expect to find.
However, understanding and mapping your local service landscape is an important factor in planning and improving children’s access to support.
Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, or CAMHS, are the NHS-run services that assess and treat children with mental health issues. CAMHS is available across the UK, and can work with schools to accept referrals.
If schools want to refer a child to their local CAMHS, they will need to speak to their local authority to do so. Some schools may want to speak to CAMHS before any particular need arises, to ensure they are clear on what to do if a child presents with mental health problems. Find out more about how to work with your local CAMHS.
Specialist CAMHS are designed to only meet the needs of children with severe and/or complex health issues. This means that schools need to have a good understanding of the other support available in their area.
Other services and how to find them
It’s important to consider the range of health, social and voluntary sector service providers.
- Directories of services: Your local authority should have a directory of services supporting children’s mental health and wellbeing. If you can’t find one, the Youth Wellbeing Directory is a national database that provides a list of local organisations supporting mental health and wellbeing for anyone up to the age of 25.
- Transformation Plans: You should also refer to your local Transformation Plan as it provides an overview of children’s needs, of local priorities, plans for improvement and of how needs will be met. Schools should know how they can influence their local Transformation Plan and make sure that their data and local knowledge of gaps feeds into the process.
- School-based mental health teams: some local areas have introduced new school-based wellbeing workers as a result of local ‘transformation’ improvements. If you have these teams in your local area, they should be a useful resource for meeting children’s needs in your school as well as a reference point for helping to navigate the system.
- This website: includes a range of national support helplines and resources to help school staff, children and families get the help they need.
- Online counselling: Do you have online counselling available in your local area? (e.g. organisations such as Kooth or The Mix – these services are mainly targeted at children in KS3 and beyond).
- Helplines: Do you know about national helplines and self-help tools (e.g. Childline, YoungMinds’ parent helpline) for children and for their families? These are not long-term solutions for children’s and families’ needs but can offer advice, self-management strategies and help children while they are waiting to access local support.
In England, all local authorities are required to have a public directory of support available for children and young people with special educational needs. This is called the ‘local offer’.
You will be able to find your local offer by searching on your local authority’s website. The local offer is required to cover education, health and social care services. The education services section will include information aimed at children with SEND, but it should also include information for schools about the support available for them.
This could include:
- specialist counselling services
- autism advisory services
- funding available for schools
- resources for schools