More than a thousand schools will be given a “point of contact” mental health expert in the face of rising anxiety and depression among pupils.
An ongoing pilot linking experts in child and adolescent mental health services (CAHMS) to schools will now grow to five times it size since it was first announced in 2015.
Up to 1,200 schools will now take part in the trial to promote “better joined-up working” between schools and health services, the Department for Education (DfE) has confirmed.
Launched by former education secretary Nicky Morgan in 2015, and in partnership with NHS England, around £3.2 million was put aside for 255 schools to trial a single point of contact between a school and its local CAHMS expert.
The cash went to clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), who received up to £85,000 each to link a school and CAHMS point of contact.
Under the new plans, schools across 20 areas will receive funding for the project. The project is still under tender with the contractor not yet confirmed, after which the 20 areas will be announced.
A spokesperson for the DfE said the government was “strengthening the links between schools and NHS mental health staff” and would announce more proposals for improving services later this year.
The conversation with Schools Week followed a report in the Daily Telegraph which claimed a full-time NHS professional would be stationed “in every secondary school”, on the back of Prince Harry and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge speaking out about the stigma of mental illness.
The DfE could not confirm the claim, but said a green paper on mental health and young people by the Department of Health has proposed training teachers in mental health issues.
The proposal to train staff, which has not yet been taken forward, was backed by the prime minister, Theresa May, who said in January that a third of secondary schools would this year receive mental health training.
The final two-thirds of schools are set to receive the training over the following two years.
Nicola Blackwood, public health minister, also said the government was “looking at” demand for a mental health counsellor in every secondary school in England.
Ministers would weigh up whether a “point of contact approach” was more effective than individual counsellors working in each school, she said.
One in 10 pupils experience mental health problems. About 75 per cent of mental health problems in adult life have begun by 18 years old, according to NHS England.
Up to 1,200 schools across 20 areas will get a single point of contact
Mental health experts have previously criticised government funding cuts to CAHMS. Unions have also claimed stretched teachers are being made to perform social and health care roles as a result of cutbacks to other public services.