Need to know: School mental health leads

All schools are being encouraged to designate a senior lead for mental health. What will that involve?

Helen Ward

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The government published its long-awaited plans to improve children and young people’s mental health today.

The plans, which were first published for consultation late last year, include encouraging schools to have a designated senior lead for mental health; setting up mental health support teams to work with schools, and shortening waiting times for specialist services.

Some children’s charities and unions have expressed disappointment that the plans do not go further.

So what will the designated senior lead for mental health need to do – and what is beyond their remit? Here is what you need to know:

Must schools have a designated senior lead for mental health?

Some respondents to the DfE's consultation suggested that the role should be mandatory, but the government does not agree. It says it is essential that schools have the flexibility to fit the role into their existing staffing responsibilities.

Will the mental health lead be an existing member of staff?

They are likely to be a member of staff – and someone senior enough to take a strategic overview of the school’s approach to mental health.

What will their role cover?

The role is to establish a whole school approach to mental health, including preventative activity and promotion of good mental wellbeing and resilience among students and staff.

It’s not just about helping students then?

No. The senior lead will be a strategic role, which will also include overseeing how staff are supported with their mental wellbeing.

Are there any more details on what the role is expected to cover?

The government’s next steps documents, published today, suggests six roles for the leads:

  • Oversight of the whole school approach to mental health and wellbeing, including its reflection in behaviour and curriculum policies, how staff are supported and how pupils and parents are engaged
  • Supporting the identification of “at risk” children
  • Having knowledge and links with local mental health services and referring children to them when appropriate
  • Oversight of any interventions being delivered in the school
  • Supporting staff who are in contact with children with mental health needs
  • Overseeing the outcomes of interventions on children’s education and wellbeing

How many schools already have an equivalent role?

More than half of schools have told the DfE that they already have a lead role in place.

Will the mental health lead need to be medically qualified?

No. The role is not that of a mental health professional. And the government has said that education staff should not diagnose mental health conditions or be required to deliver mental health interventions.

What training will be available for the mental health leads?

The government has said that it agrees with respondents to the consultation that training for the role should be “substantial and appropriately long-term”.

It is now assessing whether there will be sufficient high-quality courses that can be delivered and, if necessary, additional provision will be commissioned.

When will the training be available?

The aim is for training to be offered to 20 per cent of schools from September 2019, with all schools offered training by 2025.

How much is the plan going to cost?

The government says, overall, the mental health plans outlined today will cost £300 million, of which up to £95 million will be available to fund the new senior leads in mental health.

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Helen Ward

Helen Ward

Helen Ward is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @teshelen

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