Supporting Children and Young People’s Mental Health in Schools and Colleges

School children in a classroom


To provide training and support to staff in schools and colleges in Lancashire to help them better understand and support the mental health of pupils.


Project Lead, Richard Slinger explains:

“There have been steady increases in mental health difficulties in our children and young people over the last decade, with signs that this has significantly worsened in the last year. Getting support from professionals can be difficult due to long waiting times, as well as this help often being only available for those children with the most severe difficulties.

Lancashire County Council has funded a small team of clinical psychologists from Lancaster University to offer support free-of-charge to all educational settings in the county over the last six years. Our work provides training and advice to schools and colleges in Lancashire, which aims to help all members of staff improve their understanding of mental health, as well as help them learn ways to better support their pupils’ wellbeing during the school day.

As a result of our training school staff feel more confident in talking to pupils and their families about their emotional wellbeing, are able to better understand why some pupils might be struggling more with their mental health, and are able to offer some on-the-spot advice and support when children are having difficulties during the school day.”

Results and Outcomes

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Richard Slinger explains:

“To date we have delivered training to staff from 90% of the secondary schools, 75% of the primary schools and 90% of the colleges and sixth forms in Lancashire, totalling 502 educational settings. In total, over the last six years we have had over 8200 staff attendees at our training events, both face-to-face and online. So we have been very successful in engaging with our local schools and colleges, which also shows how much this type of support is needed.

“Feedback from school staff has been very positive, with people reporting that coming on our training has made a real difference in how they understand how their students are coping, as well as the kinds of support they can offer them in school:

“Our provision for supporting young people has become much more effective, which had a positive impact upon behaviour and ultimately better outcomes both emotionally and academically” (Primary school head teacher).

“It’s helped me to help pupils understand how they are feeling. I think children very often feel ‘There’s only me that feels like this’ or ‘I’m going mad’ and I now have ways to talk about their feelings and emotions in much more useful way” (Secondary school SENCO).

“More recently, we have had an additional focus in our training and support on the wellbeing of school staff, as it has been found that teaching is one of the most stressful professions in the UK. We have had a huge interest from schools for this training, which shows how much this is needed, especially given the challenges schools have faced during the Covid-19 period.

“Children’s mental health has been a priority area for government over the last few years, leading to a number of local and national developments in support for schools. We have worked hard to establish relationships and partnerships with other local services in the NHS and third sector so that our offer to schools can be delivered alongside more direct help for children, providing a comprehensive package of support.”

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Our training and advice aim to translate evidence-based psychological theory and techniques into practical and relevant advice that school staff can use on an everyday basis. A key principle is that we are not training school staff to be psychologists or therapists but to use new ideas and skills within their usual roles in school. We have drawn on research and theory around the transfer of training to help us focus our work.

We have been successful at bringing about changes in practice for individual staff and teams, as our training feedback shows. However, assessing impact at a whole school change or organisational level is more difficult, especially when it comes to delivering concrete evidence to funders.

As a service which is funded on a short-term basis, we have been successful on three separate occasions to win competitive tenders for the work over the last six years. From this we have learned a lot about the process of commissioning services and how to write successful bids.

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