Support in schools

Support in schools

  • In 2017, the Government’s Green Paper for transforming children and young people’s mental health set out plans for providing additional mental health support in schools and colleges, for children and young people aged 5 to 18 (Department of Health and Social Care & Department for Education, 2017).
  • The NHS Long Term Plan (219) committed to establishing Mental Health Support Teams (MHSTs) in 25% of education settings by the end of 2023 (NHS, 2019).
  • The government has committed to supporting all schools and colleges (including primary and secondary schools) to have a senior mental health lead by 2025, by offering a £1,200 grant to cover training costs (Department for Education, 2023c).


In Cambridgeshire and Peterborough:

  • Mental health support for schools is provided by mental health support teams (MHSTs) or Children’s Wellbeing Practitioners (CWP) and Emotional Health & Wellbeing Practitioners (EHWP).
  • Every school can access a government grant to train a senior mental health lead.
  • The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Healthy Schools Programme supports schools in maximising the health and wellbeing of children. 13 schools have currently achieved the full Healthy Schools accreditation and 37 are on the pathway.
  • Information about resources available to support and promote the emotional wellbeing of pupils for school staff is provided on the Keep Your Head


Mental health support teams

MHSTs consist of senior clinicians, therapists and education mental health practitioners (NHS England, 2019) and typically cover 20 schools and colleges (around 7,500 to 8,000 children and young people) (NHS England, 2019). They have three key aims (NHS England, 2023c):

  • Delivering evidence-based interventions for children and young people who have mild-to-moderate mental health issues, such as CBT for those experiencing anxiety or low mood. There should be a range of routes into accessing this support, including self-referral (NHS England, 2019).
  • Supporting senior mental health leads in schools/colleges to introduce or develop whole school approaches to mental health.
  • Providing advice to school/college staff, and liaising with external specialist support, to help children and young people get the support they need and stay in education.

Figure 49: Eight principles to promoting a whole school or college approach to mental health and wellbeing. Image source: Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Implementation Programme

What is the evidence base?

  • For every £1 spent on MHSTs, there is a return of £1.90 in savings to the state (Barnardo’s, 2022). This is likely to be an underestimate on the cost-effectiveness of MHSTs, as this analysis was only based on one-to-one interventions offered by MHSTs and does not include the impact of whole school approaches.
  • Nationally, 3 in 4 children and young people would like more support with their mental health in schools (Barnardo’s, 2022). Almost 3 in 4 (73%) parents would like greater funding for mental health in schools (Barnardo’s, 2022).
  • An evaluation of MHSTs across 25 trailblazer sites found that (Ellins et al., 2022):
    • There was substantial progress in implementing these teams, which were welcomed by schools and colleges. MHSTs allowed staff to access advice about mental health issues faster and helped them feel most confident in supporting children and young people.
    • However, there were concerns about retaining education mental health practitioners and that some young people who had mental health problems beyond ‘mild to moderate need’, but did not meet the criteria for specialist services, were falling through the gaps.

There is ongoing work in the East of England (as of July 2023) to review the impact of MHSTs.

What is the local picture?

There will be a total of 10 MHSTs across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough by 2024, which will be fully operational by 2025.

Figure 50: Timeline showing the introduction of new MHSTs across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Adapted from: (Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust, 2023)

There are over 150,000 pupils in primary schools, secondary schools and colleges who are covered by an MHST in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough in 2022-3. This equates to 28% of pupils in Cambridgeshire and 43% in Peterborough. Comparatively, 35% of pupils are covered across England (Department for Education, 2023a).

Figure 51: Coverage of MHSTs by percentage of pupils/learners and percentage of eligible settings, 2022-23 (up to waves 5 and 6 of the national roll-out). Data source: (Department for Education, 2023a)

Support for schools not covered by MHSTs

Children’s Wellbeing Practitioners (CWP) and Emotional Health & Wellbeing Practitioners (EHWP) provide support for schools not covered by MHSTs.

  • The Children’s Wellbeing Practitioner (CWP) team provide evidence-based early interventions for mild to moderate mental health need in children and young people.
    • They work directly with children, young people and families and can provide up to 8 sessions of support (which can be face-to-face, over the phone or delivered online)
    • They accept referrals from schools which are not covered by MHSTs, as well as children and young people who are home-schooled or attend private schools.
  • The emotional health and wellbeing practitioner team is a multidisciplinary team that does not work directly with children or families, but instead supports professionals to improve the emotional health and wellbeing of children and young people by providing early intervention guidance and signposting.
    • This team covers local schools which do not have MHSTs, and professionals working outside of education settings.

Senior mental health leads

  • State-funded schools and colleges in England are able to apply for a grant to train a senior mental health lead, in order to develop and implement a whole school/college approach to mental health (Department for Education, 2023c).
  • 53% of education settings (primary schools, secondary schools, or further education colleges) in Cambridgeshire, and 56% in Peterborough, had taken up the government grant for senior mental health lead training by 2022/33, compared to 58% in England (Department for Education, 2023a).

Figure 52: Cumulative uptake of senior mental health lead grants in state-funded schools and further education colleges in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, 2021/22 to 2022/23. Data source: (Department for Education, 2023a)

Additional resources 


Full list of references is included at the end of this chapter.