Promising initial feedback from areas testing new ways to link schools with child and adolescent mental health services (Camhs) prompted the Department for Education to announce in May an expansion of the initiative just six months after its launch.
The 22 single-point-of-contact pilots are bringing together a named contact in a CAMHS team with a member of staff from 255 schools (see below).
With more areas set to follow, two of the initial pilot sites outline the approach they have taken.
Breda O'Neill, school CAMHS link manager for East and North Hertfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which commissions CAMHS in the county, says the trust is working with schools to implement and develop new ways of working.
While 20 schools are directly involved in the pilot, the CCG is working across Hertfordshire, which has 550 schools, to improve pupils' mental health as part of its CAMHS local transformation plan. About 300 schools have put individuals forward as their designated single point of contact.
The CCG is supporting networks of pastoral leads, as well as teachers and other frontline workers in schools, to share models of good practice, and is providing training on the referrals process and how CAMHS works, when to refer and how to assess need within schools.
"One key area of training is around mental health first aid and we're looking at providing self-harm training. There's quite a high demand for this in schools; it's an area where they're not sure how to intervene," O'Neill says.
The CCG is working with schools to identify ways to measure where the need is and progress made.
"Some schools wouldn't necessarily be able to demonstrate on paper academic progress, so we're working with them to demonstrate progress with emotional wellbeing because that has been amazing," she says.
This work has been helped by other schools taking an interest in the pilot, O'Neill adds.
"We're linking pilot and non-pilot schools that might be facing similar issues. For example, there were issues around a pilot and non-pilot school where the catchment was in a very deprived area.
"Both were struggling with engaging children in learning, but both have done amazing holistic work around mindfulness.
"Demonstrating the work they're doing is difficult in regards to Ofsted criteria. So we got the schools together and provided a session on the use of outcome measures and that's led to work around further training in the schools," O'Neill explains.
Deborah Sheppard, school CAMHS link manager for Herts Valleys CCG, says schools that do not have high levels of attainment are keen to show Ofsted they are progressing students in other ways.
"We're looking at measures to track students' wellbeing and use data in a meaningful way to better support them. We're going to pilot training with a group of schools and look at different models of recording outcomes," she says.
The CCG is also developing a model to provide face-to-face advice from a CAMHS clinician on termly or half-termly basis to groups of schools, O'Neill adds.
"We're looking to implement it this term, so there will be a more visible presence in schools for CAMHS. We're looking at trying to improve direct access to CAMHS and increase understanding of what schools can do to help."
Steve Rippin, assistant head teacher of Tapton secondary school, which is one of 10 Sheffield schools involved in the pilot, says it is introducing measures to improve mental health among its pupils, including working with the NHS to provide staff training to raise awareness.
The school is drawing on expertise from CAMHS to develop literature to go in student planners, including advice on dealing with stress. This, Rippin says, is linked with issues covered in personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education, and school assemblies on mental health.
Rippin says taking part in the pilot has led to a particular focus on exams. "We know as a school that, for students who don't achieve as well as we were hoping, we often see a link to mental health issues.
"With the support of CAMHS, we're working to identify students suffering with mental health issues relating to exams, and give them some stress-busting tips and support, with sessions run jointly by teachers and CAMHS clinicians," he says.
The school has also set up a Healthy Mind Champions group, consisting of 15 students and led by Hayley Sharman, who meet and discuss issues to give school staff a student's viewpoint on what they are seeing among their peers.
He says: "We did a survey across school and one of the things to come out were issues around sleep, which appear to impact on mental health. So we're going to get the mental health champions to explore that and feed back to staff to see if we can give some advice to students from their perspective."
In addition, 20 members of staff have expressed interest in becoming mental health champions, and act as a first point of contact for students.
Rippin says the pilots have already improved the school's relationship with CAMHS.
He adds: "We have a better understanding of what they do and how they operate, and they have a better idea of how schools operate - before this project there were two worlds."
SINGLE POINT OF CONTACT
- The pilots, initially announced in December 2015, aim to improve referrals from schools to CAMHS
- The two-year pilot is being tested with a named person in 255 schools in 22 pilot areas
- It is backed with £3m of government funding