Schools And Mental Health; Ways Forward

17/02/2017 10:10 GMT | Updated 18/02/2018 10:12 GMT

The time for children and young people's mental health (CYPMH) is now. This New Year, Theresa May PM said: 'For too long mental illness has been something of a hidden injustice in our country' and announced that the government will support pilots of new approaches in response. Schools are a key part of that response.

Overwhelmingly, primary and secondary schools are concerned about the mental health needs of their pupils and are keen to understand how best to support those individuals. However, schools often feel under-skilled and historically there has been a poor and often confused relationship between schools and their local CYP mental health services, whether provided by the NHS or voluntary sector.

It was this context that prompted NHS England and the Department for Education (DfE) to jointly launch the Mental Health Services and Schools Link Pilot in 2015. The pilot was developed in response to the 2015 report of the Children and Young People's Mental Health Taskforce, Future in Mind, to strengthen joint working arrangements between schools settings and specialist CYP mental health services.

An Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families consortium of mental health and educational experts won a competitive tender to deliver joint planning workshops using a framework specifically developed to improve interagency working. We worked with 255 schools across 22 pilot sites in England including Salford, Camden and Tower Hamlets, bringing together those with a stake in CYP mental health to discuss how inter-agency collaboration could be improved through reflection, action planning and review.

The results of an evaluation of the training by independent organisation Ecorys demonstrated how the workshops led to practical improvements on the ground. Schools reported increased confidence in supporting children and young people with mental health issues. Statistically significant outcomes relating to knowledge and awareness of mental health issues in school staff were found. These results suggest the need to develop such trainings further and investigate their impact in more detail.

Ann Gross from the DfE highlighted the training's 'real success in strengthening communication and joint working between schools and CAMHS with increased satisfaction with working relationships, better understanding of referral routes, improved timeliness and appropriateness of referrals'. Of course, further work is needed to embed and test sustainable delivery models. Gross announced the welcome news that the single point of contact pilot (SPOC) will be extended, releasing tender to 20 CCGs and 1200 schools.

To find out more about the SPOC pilot and its evaluation, please head here.