Psychological well being help groups in faculties: the UK Trailblazer programme


It’s all the time a privilege to put in writing for the Psychological Elf, and I suppose I’ve been exploring the woodlands lengthy sufficient for them to set me a running a blog problem: writing a abstract of the early analysis of the Kids and Younger Folks’s Psychological Well being Trailblazer Programme (Ellins et al., 2023). This isn’t your customary analysis article however as an alternative a protracted doc overlaying a number of analysis questions and strategies. Subsequently, the purpose of this weblog is to replicate on among the findings moderately than summarise the evaluation (because the evaluation already has a useful abstract).

So right here goes! I do really feel a little bit just like the elf who has been challenged to attempt the brand new ‘gray literature’ mushroom first to see if it’s protected! Let’s see whether it is.

Psychological well being providers in faculties: the context

Psychological well being points in youngsters and younger folks (CYP) are on the rise (Pitchforth et al., 2019), and have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. It has due to this fact been proposed that an apparent approach of tackling that is to put psychological well being providers in faculties. This has been trialled earlier than with a number of different initiatives similar to:

  • Focused Psychological Well being in Faculties (TaMHS) from 2008-2011
  • Enhancing Entry to Psychological Therapies (IAPT), launched in 2007 and prolonged to youngster and younger folks’s providers in 2011
  • Faculties Hyperlink Pilot, launched in 2015

Throughout this time interval, a number of authorities paperwork had been revealed, together with Future In Thoughts (2015) and 5 12 months Ahead View for Psychological Well being (2016). This culminated within the Reworking Kids and Younger Folks’s Psychological Well being Provision inexperienced paper (2017), which set out three key actions for supporting CYP psychological well being:

  • A skilled and devoted Senior Psychological Well being Lead in each faculty
  • Psychological Well being Help Groups (MHSTs) linked to each faculty
  • Diminished wait occasions for CYP in want.

This is able to be rolled out in phases throughout the nation (see Determine 1 for a timeline), starting with trailblazer websites.

Figure 1. A timeline of the Trailblazer programme and the relevant broader context.

Determine 1. A timeline of the Trailblazer programme and the related broader context. [Click to full full sized figure]

The Kids and Younger Folks’s Psychological Well being Trailblazer programme was launched in December 2018, which concerned coaching Schooling Psychological Well being Practitioners (EMHPs) and establishing MHSTs (additionally referred to as ‘Trailblazers’), which had 3 core features:

  1. Offering direct help to CYP with delicate to reasonable psychological well being points
  2. Supporting training settings to introduce or develop their entire faculty/school strategy to psychological well being and wellbeing
  3. Giving recommendation to employees in training settings and liaising with exterior specialist providers to assist CYP get the appropriate help and keep in training.

The present report evaluates the event, implementation and early progress of the primary 58 MHSTs embedded in 25 Trailblazer websites and involving 1,050 faculties and schools, with the purpose of “scoping and creating an analysis protocol for a long term summative evaluation of the programme’s outcomes and impacts”. Of observe, this work has been massively impacted by COVID-19, which is mirrored within the report, however not the main focus of this weblog.

The Children and Young People’s Mental Health Trailblazer programme launched in 2018 to provide better mental health support to children and young people in schools in England.

The Kids and Younger Folks’s Psychological Well being Trailblazer programme launched in 2018 to offer higher psychological well being help to youngsters and younger folks in faculties in England.


A broad vary of knowledge was collected by way of a wide range of strategies and from completely different stakeholders all through the undertaking. A youth advisory group with lived expertise of psychological unwell well being had been concerned all through.


Two surveys had been despatched to colleges/schools, with response charges starting from 17% (second survey) to 30% (first survey). Not less than 2 responses had been obtained from each Trailblazer website.

Two extra surveys had been carried out with stakeholders who had been key to implementing Trailblazer MHSTs (e.g., managers, training leads). Each surveys had a 26% response charge and there was no less than one response from each Trailblazer website.


Six websites had been chosen as case research, with one website later withdrawing. Interviews with 71 stakeholders had been carried out throughout these 5 websites between July 2021 and February 2022.

Nationwide and regional leads had been additionally interviewed twice (40 people in whole, with 26 in every spherical and 12 collaborating in each interviews).

Group interviews occurred with the nationwide programme group from the Division of Well being and Social Care, Division for Schooling, NHS England, Enchancment and Well being Schooling England, and with key personnel from two universities delivering EMHP coaching. A closing interview concerned a senior advisor on CYP psychological well being to NHS England and Enchancment, leading to 8 interviews with 21 folks.

Qualitative knowledge was analysed utilizing a thematic framework methodology.

Focus teams

Two focus teams with CYP had been additionally carried out, with self-selected individuals with a combination of demographics (e.g., major and secondary faculty, female and male, contact or no contact with an MHST). All knowledge was anonymised.

Secondary knowledge

Analyses drew on a variety of secondary knowledge sources, together with knowledge that had been collected for the earlier work packages, knowledge from the Division for Schooling (DfE) baseline surveys, monetary knowledge, scoping evaluation knowledge, and extra.


This evaluation doesn’t cowl the influence of Trailblazers on psychological well being outcomes. Reasonably, it appears to be like at how effectively the programme has been applied, with reflections on what does and doesn’t work as MHSTs proceed to be rolled out throughout the nation. This weblog summarises among the key themes throughout the report, however doesn’t cowl all findings.

Facilitators to implementation

It’s clear that there are a variety of facilitators to make sure efficient implementation of MHSTs (Psychological Well being Help Groups) in faculties.

Collaboration was one of the recurring themes, with emphasis that MHSTs must work in partnership with their faculties. This was usually facilitated by having somebody on the MHST who understood instructional settings (i.e., had beforehand labored in training), however was additionally aided by efficient communication and sturdy relationships between the companions. It was famous that the place there have been beforehand sturdy relationships between faculties and psychological well being providers, there was higher implementation initially of the programme. As well as, it helped if faculties had buy-in from senior management and an engaged psychological well being lead, and there was clear governance, management, and encouragement of an entire faculty strategy.

The MHST employees had been handiest after they had been skilled, dependable, informative, and proactive, but in addition after they had been in a position to act or reply promptly to referrals/queries. Flexibility was additionally seen as a facilitator, the place MHSTs might tailor their help and methods of working to particular person training settings. It’s price noting that this tailoring was primarily based on what faculty employees thought was wanted; solely in a really restricted variety of settings had been the views of youngsters and younger folks or mother and father and carers taken under consideration. When these views had been thought of, it was seen as being efficient. Lastly, a key facilitator was a dedication to a complete faculty strategy.

Limitations to implementation

Limitations to efficient implementation had been skilled by each MHSTs and faculties.

For faculties, some merely didn’t interact with the MHSTs in a approach that allowed the programme to be absolutely embedded, for causes similar to:

  • Competing commitments and priorities of senior psychological well being leads leading to an absence of engagement
  • Perceptions that MHSTs had been restricted in capability to fulfill the wants of the setting
  • Poor communication resulting in a misunderstanding/mismatch between faculty expectations and obtainable provision
  • Pupils not being referred because of perceptions of MHST referrals being unsuitable
  • Faculties desirous to deal with intervention and MHSTs desirous to deal with prevention
  • Lack of belief in MHST expertise and/or data
  • Previous (poor) expertise of short-term psychological well being programmes
  • Psychological well being not seen as a precedence for the varsity
  • A way that they (the colleges) had been being dictated to (see beneath).

Some additional challenges arose because of the approach that the undertaking itself ran and the influence of COVID-19, together with:

  • Frequent MHST staffing modifications and excessive employees turnover affecting relationship-building
  • Delays within the senior psychological well being lead coaching, making it arduous for faculties to work successfully with MHSTs
  • Lack of bodily house in faculties for MHSTs
  • EMHPs skilled to ship very particular interventions that aren’t applicable for all teams and due to this fact excluded some CYP from accessing help
  • Mother and father provided help however not constantly participating
  • Lengthy ready occasions to entry MHSTs
  • Help needing to be delivered remotely
  • Appreciable admin related to the service and required to make referrals.

Advantages of MHSTs

Nonetheless, instructional settings did establish some advantages of MHSTs, together with:

  • Help for college employees and fogeys/carers
  • Elevated capability to help CYP psychological well being wants
  • Earlier identification and faster entry/intervention
  • Raised consciousness
  • Improved service hyperlinks.

From the views of CYP, the authors observe a perceptible shift in attitudes and language round psychological well being and wellbeing. It’s clear that the place the MHSTs had been absolutely embedded within the faculty, pupils had been higher in a position to discuss psychological well being (elevated psychological well being literacy), higher in a position to search assist (elevated entry), and higher in a position to cope with tough feelings or conditions (elevated self-management). The place the pupils had been conscious of MHSTs, their views had been usually beneficial, reinforcing the significance of working at a complete faculty degree.

Facilitators for implementing Mental Health Support Teams within schools were identified, including effective communication, support from those in leadership roles, and collaboration.

Facilitators for implementing Psychological Well being Help Groups inside faculties had been recognized, together with efficient communication, help from these in management roles, and collaboration.


Total, the Trailblazer programme has been largely constructive, particularly given the difficult circumstances of COVID-19. Nonetheless, there may be substantial studying that may be taken from this evaluation as to what facilitates the simplest working partnerships between faculties and psychological well being providers. It additionally identifies key gaps that the MHSTs would possibly must fill that transcend their unique scope, which maybe requires a rethink of the programme.

Barriers to implementing Mental Health Support Teams within schools was also found, including lack of engagement, poor communication, conflicting priorities, and limited capacity. COVID-19 also had a big impact on the programme.

Limitations to implementing Psychological Well being Help Groups inside faculties was additionally discovered, together with lack of engagement, poor communication, conflicting priorities, and restricted capability. COVID-19 additionally had a big effect on the programme.

Meals for thought

I’m actually privileged that, as a part of my work as coach for the Faculty Psychological Well being Award, I’ve spoken to over 200 faculties previously 4 years about their psychological well being and wellbeing provision, lots of whom have been concerned with the Trailblazer programme. It’s clear that they’ve discovered the expertise overwhelmingly constructive, and I’ve witnessed first-hand a large variation in how faculties have labored with their MHSTs and EMHPs. As such, there are a pair issues that I wished to replicate on.

Firstly, plainly the undertaking was rushed in its arrange, that means faculties took a backseat within the improvement of the MHSTs. On condition that the top customers are pupils and that the conduits are faculties, it is important that faculties are absolutely concerned within the improvement and implementation means of such programmes. It seems that many MHSTs took a extra scientific strategy to improvement (presumably as a result of most individuals employed had this background) and haven’t essentially taken under consideration how faculties function, or the potential lack of psychological well being literacy of college employees. This was, as prompt by the report, additional exacerbated by senior psychological well being lead coaching being delayed, that means faculties might haven’t had the data wanted to contribute. Finally this seems to have led to two ‘sorts’ of MHSTs – scientific versus holistic. The holistic arrange was often the place there have been already sturdy relationships between the well being and training sectors, permitting for extra flexibility and faculties being extra readily included in driving the supplied help.

An extra situation could possibly be the funding. While the MHSTs and regional leads felt that that they had adequate funding, faculties didn’t. There may be presently a recruitment and retention disaster in training, and employees are already stretched to breaking level in overlaying vacancies and illness. The senior lead roles had been clearly essential to the programme’s success, but when that is a further accountability taken on by a member of the senior management group, it’s unlikely to be a precedence or a task given sufficient time. As seen above, the effectiveness of the programme depended enormously on the relationships and collaboration between faculties and MHSTs; it was famous that the place the psychological well being position at school was cut up between two folks into strategic and operational, the workload was higher unfold, resulting in more practical implementation.

Although the Trailblazer programme was positive, schools seemed largely uninvolved in the development of the programme, leading to a lack of holism between schools and support teams which may have hindered effectiveness.

Though the Trailblazer programme was constructive, faculties appeared largely uninvolved within the improvement of the programme, resulting in an absence of holism between faculties and help groups which can have hindered effectiveness.

Subsequent steps

Lastly, earlier than I make my approach again out of the woodland, I want to replicate on ‘what subsequent?’

Each this analysis and findings from an earlier work bundle spotlight some key studying as this undertaking rolls out. On condition that the Trailblazers have demonstrated good progress in assembly their key goals and our data of hyperlinks between psychological wellbeing and tutorial achievement, you’ll assume all faculties would leap on the likelihood to have interaction with MHSTs.

However they don’t.

Lecturers are sometimes not skilled in psychological well being, and many don’t interact with it because of a deal with different calls for inside training. A lot of these most have already engaged – so how do you interact faculties that merely don’t see this as a precedence, notably in mild of the significance of collaboration and communication? Going ahead, nationwide and regional leads might want to take into account not simply the limitations confronted by taking part faculties, but in addition find out how to interact with reluctant faculties.

Looking to the future, consideration needs to be given to how to encourage schools to engage with the programme when mental health is not a priority.

Seeking to the longer term, consideration must be given to find out how to encourage faculties to have interaction with the programme when psychological well being just isn’t a precedence.

Assertion of pursuits

No conflicts of curiosity.


Main paper

Ellins, J., Hocking, L., Al-Haboubi, M., Newbould, J., Fenton, S-J., Daniel, Ok., et al. (2023). Early analysis of the Kids and Younger Folks’s Psychological Well being Trailblazer programme: A speedy mixed-methods examine. Southampton: NIHR Well being and Social Care Supply Analysis Subject Report.

Secondary paper

Ellins, J., Singh, Ok., Al-Haboubi, M., Newbould, J., Hocking, L., Bousfield, J., et al. (2021). Early analysis of the Kids and Younger Folks’s Psychological Well being Trailblazer programme: Interim report. Nationwide Institute for Well being Analysis,

Different references

Division of Well being, & Division for Schooling (2017). Reworking Kids and Younger Folks’s Psychological Well being Provision: a Inexperienced Paper.

NHS England (2015). Future in thoughts: Selling, defending and enhancing our kids and younger folks’s psychological well being and wellbeing. Division of Well being.

McCarthy, M. (2023). Are the children alright? Emergency assist for suicide and self-harm through the COVID-19 pandemic. The Psychological Elf.

Pitchforth, J., Fahy, Ok., Ford, T., Wolpert, M., Viner, R. M., & Hargreaves, D. S. (2019). Psychological well being and well-being tendencies amongst youngsters and younger folks within the UK, 1995–2014: evaluation of repeated cross-sectional nationwide well being surveysPsychological Drugs49(8), 1275-1285.

Powell, L. (2018). Psychological well being stigma in faculties: serving to younger folks entry help. The Psychological Elf.

The Psychological Well being Taskforce (2016). The 5 12 months Ahead View for Psychological Well being. NHS England.

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