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Department for Education award three major school programmes

After competitive tendering processes, Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families has been awarded three major contracts by the Department for Education (DfE), to deliver crucial programmes supporting children and young people's mental health in schools.

Building on the Centre's experience, expertise and commitment to working with schools across the UK, we are delighted to be heading up the programmes: Mental Health Services and Schools Link, Peer Support and Children and Young People's Mental Health (CYP MH) Research.

The Mental Health Services and Schools Link Programme was successfully piloted by the Centre in 2015/16 in 255 schools and Children and Young People's Mental Health Services (CYPMHS) across 27 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in England. One of its aims was to get a single, named point of contact for mental health in every school, and the independent evaluation undertaken by Ecorys showed that the pilots had considerable success in strengthening communication and joint working arrangements between schools and NHS CYPMHS. DfE have now commissioned the Centre to deliver this ground-breaking programme to a further 20 CCG areas and up to 1,200 schools and colleges. The programme brings together mental health leads, commissioning and Local Authority (LA) leads and CYPMHS, to embed long-term collaboration and integrated working across agencies and services, ensuring mental health support is more visible and more accessible to children and young people.

As part of a consortium with the experts behind the "More than Mentors" scheme, YoungMinds and Place2Be, we will also be working with staff from 100 schools and 10 community youth organisations (CYOs), to give them the skills, knowledge and tools to implement face-to-face peer support initiatives to support mental health. Many schools already implement peer support, recognising that some young people find it easier to talk to and seek help from their friends and classmates. In coproduction with young people, the consortium will produce peer support toolkits and training for schools and CYOs. The toolkits and the associated training, will cover a range of activities, core principles and best practice, to increase and improve the quality of peer support for mental wellbeing that is available to children and young people. At the end of the programme, the toolkits will be made freely available online for more schools and CYOs to use.

The CYP MH Research Programme will see the Centre leading two multi-arm trials: the first to evaluate two curriculum-based interventions, YAM and The Guide, and the second to evaluate light-touch interventions based in mindfulness, relaxation and protective behaviours. Through the trials, the Centre's consortium, including experts from the Universities of Manchester, Dundee, Liverpool, Bath, Kings College London and London School of Economics, will contribute to a growing evidence base to aid schools' decisions about how to support and promote mental wellbeing amongst children and young people.

"This programme is fundamental to the future of mental health in schools. Although there is some evidence for school-based activities to support emotional wellbeing, a robust evidence base that is accessible to schools is currently lacking," commented Jess Deighton, Principal Investigator for the CYP MH Research Programme.

The three programmes, worth £3.3 million over the next three years, will reach over 1,600 primary and secondary schools, further education colleges, special schools, and alternative provisions. Ecorys, one of Europe's leading research organisations, will be evaluating the Mental Health Services and Schools Link Programme and the Peer Support Programme, to make recommendations for further improvements and scaling up of the approaches.

Jaime Smith, Director of the Centre's Mental Health and Wellbeing in Schools Programme, added, "It's very exciting to be reaching out to so many schools and colleges. Teachers and school staff are uniquely placed when it comes to engaging children and young people. And with these programmes, we will really be able to get to grips with the best ways for schools to develop locally-appropriate approaches that will make a real, long-term difference to mental health and wellbeing in schools across the country".