Up to two-thirds of schools and colleges will have to wait until at least next spring to hear if they will receive grant funding for senior staff mental health training, the government has confirmed.

The Department for Education published brief new guidance on Wednesday setting out further details of its pledge to offer every school and college training for a senior mental health lead. The government has announced £9.5 million so far for leads in up to 7,800 schools and colleges.

But training has still not yet begun almost three years after the plans were announced in a 2018 government mental health green paper. The DfE has blamed delays on the 2019 election and Covid.

Here are the key takeaways from the DfE’s latest update to schools and colleges.


1. New mental health waitlist for most

The DfE reiterated previous statements that around a third of schools and colleges can benefit in the next year.

But amid widespread frustrations over long waiting lists for other children’s mental health services, most schools and colleges could find themselves on a waiting list too.

The DfE said it would create a “waitlist” for those schools and colleges not approved this year, but schools and colleges will still not be given certainty over provision in future academic years.

The DfE “will confirm future grant funding in the spring of 2022”.


2. Training aimed at heads and SLTs

The guidance underlines that funding is primarily aimed at school and college leaders, which could leave some more junior staff with a mental health remit disappointed.

A section on ‘which staff can get the training’ says it is up to schools or colleges, but suggests heads, deputy heads, and members of the senior leadership team.

Existing mental health leads or mental health support team coordinators can be nominated.

But schools and colleges considering appointing staff who are not senior leaders “need to consider whether the individual has the authority, capacity and support to influence and lead strategic change within the setting”.


3. ‘Up to £1,200′ for two days’ training

The DfE says schools or colleges “should get up to about £1,200,” but will have to wait until the autumn term to find out exactly how much.

Training should be “approximately two working days”, depending on specific learning needs and types of course.


4. Colleges able to sign up ‘soon’

The DfE promises more information “soon” on its new senior mental health lead guidance page about how schools and colleges can sign up for any training from September.

But training providers have still not yet been invited to submit their senior lead training offers for quality assurance, and the DfE’s criteria for this assurance will only be published “in the summer”.

A list of approved courses will then be published in September, suggesting training is unlikely to start immediately in the next academic year.


5. Focus on ‘whole school or college approach’ to mental health

The DfE makes clear the funding is not compulsory, but designed to give schools and colleges the knowledge and skills to develop a “holistic”, “whole school or college” approach to promoting and supporting mental health and wellbeing.

It says a “coordinated and evidence-informed approach” improves pupil emotional health and readiness to learn. Funding is to go towards both training and hiring supply to cover staff while away.

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