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The Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families leads training initiative for mental health champions in every school

The Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families is working with the Department for Education and NHS England to improve mental health services for children in over 250 schools. 

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has announced a £3 million mental health training programme designed and managed by children's charity, the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, that will bring schools and mental health services closer together. It will mean children and young people have better access to local, specialist and consistent mental health provision.

The Mental Health Services and Schools Link Pilots will test having a named single point of contact for mental health in 255 schools and in 22 pilot areas. The aim is to improve joined up working between schools and health services.

Jaime Smith, Schools Engagement Lead at the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families said:

“Mental health and education is a two-way street - mental health professionals can be very helpful to teachers and school staff but they also have a great deal to learn from them. This is a huge opportunity to break down barriers and work together to improve the mental health support offered to children and young people in England. ”  

“The Centre has long been pioneering greater integration and collaboration between mental health services and schools, as it is key to our overall vision of creating a step change in children’s mental health in the UK.”

Funded jointly by the Department for Education and NHS England, each of 27 Clinical Commissioning Groups from 22 areas are working with at least 10 schools to trial this new way of working with a named lead across services.

The areas involved all successfully bid for funding and will receive a boost of up to £85,000. They’ll take part in two local training days, as well as two national events to share learning and best practice, which will be delivered by a consortium led by the Centre.

The training days will cover understanding the strengths, limitations and capabilities and capacities of education and mental health professionals; developing knowledge of what’s available to support children and young people’s mental health and how to make more effective use of resources.

The single point of contact in the schools will be responsible for developing closer relationships with a counterpart in local NHS CAMHS services to improve knowledge and understanding of mental health issues, and to help ensure any referrals are timely and appropriate.

They will be attended by head teachers, teachers and other school staff, staff from children and adolescent mental health services representatives from clinical commissioning groups.

The work will be evaluated nationally to understand the impact of joint working.

This investment is building on a £1.4 billion government investment in children and young people’s mental health over the next five years. This is a key government priority, as part of the drive to put mental health on an equal footing with physical health.

The pilot is part of the vision set out in the Future in Mind report, which made a number of proposals on how mental health services could be improved, including for children and young people.