School mental health pilots

New school-based teams and practitioners aim to provide mental health support to pupils earlier.

The government has announced the 25 areas that will pilot new arrangements for linking schools and colleges with specialist children's mental health services.

Over the course of 2019, 59 mental health support teams will be launched by the 25 trailblazer sites across five regions of England (see below). These will be staffed by a new grade of worker - education mental health practitioners - who will work in schools, colleges and community mental health settings to support children and young people.


  • Berkshire West
  • Bromley
  • Buckinghamshire
  • Camden
  • Doncaster & Rotherham
  • Gloucestershire
  • Haringey
  • Hertfordshire
  • Hounslow
  • Kirklees
  • Liverpool
  • Newcastle
  • North Kent
  • North Staffordshire
  • Northumberland
  • Nottinghamshire
  • Oxfordshire
  • South Tyneside
  • South Warwickshire
  • South west London
  • Stoke on Trent
  • Swindon
  • Tower Hamlets
  • West London

Source: NHS Careers

Year-long training courses for the practitioners began at six regional teaching collaboratives and universities in January.

NHS Careers says candidates will be degree-educated and have a background in child development, wellbeing or mental health, have experience of working with children and young people, and knowledge of the education system.

Training modules will include self management, caseload planning, referral pathways to specialist mental health, and supporting education staff to identify and manage mental health problems (see case study, below).

Each team will support up to 8,000 young people in 20 schools and colleges in their area. They will support children with mild to moderate mental health issues, help young people with more severe needs access support from specialist NHS services, and supplement existing school-based provision such as school nursing, educational psychology and counselling.

The trailblazers will be jointly funded by the Department for Education and Department of Health and Social Care under plans first announced in the Children's Mental Health green paper in December 2017. This also introduces plans for the DfE to fund every school to appoint a "senior mental health lead".

In addition, 12 teams are to pilot a four-week waiting time for accessing specialist NHS young people's mental health services.

As a result of the reforms, between a fifth and a quarter of the country will be covered by a trailblazer site by 2023. However, this pace has been described as too slow by children's mental health campaigners. Matthew Reed, The Children's Society chief executive, said the plans "fall short of what is needed to urgently tackle long waiting times and shortcomings in support" when they were announced.

"As little as one-fifth of the country would benefit from the planned pilot schemes, meaning the postcode lottery will continue for the foreseeable future and it could be years before the changes are rolled out," he added.

Case study: Agencies involved in London trailblazer sites outline their approaches


By Portia Kumalo, programme lead, South West London Health and Care Partnership

"The partnership will be supporting 44 schools with the provision of three mental health support teams across Merton, Sutton and Wandsworth. These teams will build on the interventions that are already in place as part of our whole-school approach pilot. Aligning the new teams with the whole-school approach and embedding what they do into the wider system is critical to their success.

Children and young people have also been involved from the start - through focus groups, school youth councils, during lessons and helping with procurement to ensure that what we are doing reflects their voice.

We know that some children and young people who develop enduring mental health conditions in childhood, if not treated early enough, can [have them] progress to adulthood. Our ambition is to pick that up much earlier so we can intervene."


By Tracy Parr, director of transformation, Healthy London Partnership

"The trailblazers is an exciting opportunity to build strong partnerships between mental health services and schools, and to expand the delivery of much-needed support for our young people. I hope this will start to turn the tide of the burden of mental health.

Schools and colleges play a vital role in building the resilience and wellbeing of young Londoners. The extra resources and potential for enhanced partnerships available through the programme will make a huge difference to existing provision and will provide a unique platform for sharing learning across the country.

We are looking forward to sharing our experience of supporting transformational change by convening people and partners across London, enabling them to learn from each other, share best practice and seek out excellence in the provision of services for young Londoners."


By Wendy Geraghty, lead training placement officer, King's College London

"King's has played a significant role in setting up the trailblazer initiative and developing a national curriculum for training the new workforce. Along with University College London, we supported two large NHS Trusts to recruit the 59 trainee education mental health practitioners who have been placed in trailblazer sites across London and the South East.

We are training the practitioners on a one-year post-graduate diploma course, designed to suit the needs of the programme. Trainees are being trained to deliver low-intensity, evidence-based interventions for mild to moderate mental health difficulties in educational settings. It will enable them to offer effective services from within schools, in groups and on a one-to-one basis. They will be able to signpost children and young people with more complex issues to appropriate services."

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