The DfE have announced that up to 7,800 schools and colleges will be included in the programme to train a member of staff as a metal health lead, acting as a figure head to encourage educational establishments to tackle mental health and wellbeing as a ‘whole school or college approach’.

Being involved in the programme will give the eligible schools and colleges the opportunity to apply for a £1,200 grant. This money would then be used to provide already existing senior staff training, to expand on their knowledge and understanding around mental health and wellbeing.

The DfE will be providing £9.5 million extra funding in total for this mental health lead training, which the government hopes will lead to all state schools and colleges providing the training as a standard by 2025.

The training aims to:

  • improve how existing mental health resources are used
  • identify students who need extra mental health support
  • improve the work done between schools, colleges and local mental health services

There has been an overwhelming body of evidence in the last two months that the pandemic and the resulting mental health crisis has disproportionately impacted young people. Just recently the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RcPsych) reported that almost 200,000 children and young people have been referred onto mental health services during a period of only three months between April and June 2021.

Spokesperson for RcPsych, Dr Elaine Lockhart emphasised the need for “early intervention” and said that “schools have a critical role to play”.

A holistic, whole school or college approach that prioritises the wellbeing of it’s pupils and students will be an essential part of this solution, especially in regards to finding services and support for those students and pupils who need it most. Schools have a fantastic opportunity here to act as a liaison between mental health services in the community and the students and pupils they interact with every day, in many ways making it easier for teachers and staff to take preventative action than it might be for parents or guardians at home.

This training is just one part of a bigger, £17m package that the government is putting together to build on the mental health support that is available to schools and colleges. Guidance for developing good mental health practices within schools and colleges was first published in 2015 by DfE and Public Health England (PHE) and will be getting a much needed update and overhaul to reflect the unique difficulties and struggles of the past year facing our nation's youth.

Minister for Children and Families Will Quince has said of the training:

“Today marks an important step forward in our commitment to making wellbeing a central part of education recovery, by giving school and college staff the confidence to not only teach about good mental health but also understand what steps to take if they feel a pupil is struggling.”