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The school-based mental health and wellbeing landscape has undergone seismic change since 2020. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic struck, momentum towards the development of dedicated, in-school mental health expertise was growing significantly. As a cornerstone of government mental health and wellbeing strategy, the government would like every school to have a Senior Mental Health Lead in place by 2025. As this important new role becomes increasingly defined and implemented in schools a clear set of aims and priorities are emerging.

Introducing Our Whole School System

Our whole school approach to positive mental health and wellbeing, combines positive and organisational psychology theory with mental health in schools guidelines and recommendations. Our system model represents the dynamic way mental health is developed in schools and colleges. We use it to provide a framework for planning, developing and embedding school wellbeing.

Senior Mental Health Lead Training and Resources (SMHL)

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Purpose of this Guide for Senior Mental Health Leads

We have put together this guide to provide some ideas, examples, and questions for reflection. We hope these will provide a shortcut to action, saving you time and bringing clarity which helps you take informed action. The landscape for Senior Mental Health Leads is changing rapidly at the moment. We will add additional information and resources to this page as we collate and refine them, but for our latest insights (and those of other SMHLs), you can also request to join our Facebook group.

The guide will cover:

  • Objectives
  • Guidance for SMHLs
  • Get oriented as a SMHL
  • How to plan interventions and programmes
  • How to implement your plans
  • How to find training to support your professional development as a SMHL
  • How to access SMHL funding from the DfE to pay for your training

Senior Mental Health Leads - Role Objectives

The role and remit of the mental health lead are not clear cut or the same in every school. Each school will have their own nuanced way of establishing the role of the school mental health lead, primaries will be different from secondaries. The remit of what is involved in providing that role and associated tasks will be different schools to school, it’s important to note a one-size-fits-all is not appropriate. For more detail about the role of the senior mental health lead review our SMHL job description.

We have supported several Mental Health and Wellbeing Leads in primary, secondary and FE colleges on their journey through developing their own sustainable approaches to school mental health and wellbeing. The Senior Mental Health lead's role is intended to be a strategic leadership role, with oversight of the whole school or college approach to mental health and wellbeing in their setting. Who in a school or college occupies the role is likely to vary.  The government recommends that your Senior Mental Health Lead is a member of your Senior Leadership team or works very closely with your leadership team and has their support to influence strategic change and embed mental health and wellbeing into the culture of your school. This recommendation has been driven by extensive evidence that suggests a whole school approach to mental health and wellbeing is the most effective way to make a difference to the mental health of pupils and students. You can find out more here on the government information page for Senior Mental Health Leads.

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Funded Training For Senior Mental Health Leads

On 10 May 2021, DfE announced £9.5m in funding so that,between September 2021 and March 2022, around a third of schools and colleges in England will be able to access a grant to pay for senior mental health lead training - helping develop the knowledge and skills in settings to implement an effective whole school or college approach to mental health and wellbeing. The government has committed to offer senior mental lead training to all state schools and colleges by 2025. Further information about the DfE offer to schools and colleges can be found here.

We are proud to announce that our Wellbeing Club for Senior Mental Health Leads is an approved programme and eligible for DfE grant funding to cover the costs for your Senior Lead. This article explains how to access the DfE funding to pay for your Senior Mental Health Lead training.

Guidance for new Senior Mental Health Leads

For many schools and colleges the role of Senior Mental Health Lead is a new one. Based on working with school mental health leads for the last 6 years we have put together some guidance for new in post or beginner Senior Mental Health Leads

Stage 1 - Get orientated in your new post

Assess your role within your school's overall strategy

Are you a new in post school mental health lead? Have you been tasked with developing your schools’ approach to mental health and wellbeing? Perhaps you have been tasked with auditing, supporting, and developing provision for pupil mental health and wellbeing. Great, how exciting! This is a fantastic starting place to make a big difference to so many children and young people in your school.

This is also a great time to consider the remit of your role. Clarifying the expectations of how your role supports the development of mental health and wellbeing is a great place to start.

Questions to reflect on

  • How does your role influence school strategy or overall objectives? For example, are you responsible for leading a whole school approach to mental health and wellbeing?
  • Are you developing a policy and processes that support whole school wellbeing?
  • How does mental health and wellbeing meet and support your school values (if you have them)?
  • Are you part of or working closely with your school senior leadership team?
  • Are you a lead mental health practitioner? For example, are your responsible for overseeing, developing, and delivering interventions for pupils that help them with mental health problems or to improve levels of wellbeing?
  • Is your role both strategic and acting as a practitioner? Or are these two different roles? Ideally the Senior Mental Health Lead, develops and leads the whole school approach while other members of your team or partner agencies deliver the direct support to your pupils or students.
  • What does a Senior Mental Health Lead actually do? Examples include leading a whole school approach through the developing and embedding pathways to specialised support for pupils with mental health needs. Leading training for colleagues in awareness of these pathways and how to support pupils to access them. Embedding and sharing strategies for wellbeing in the school culture including taught curriculum. Then developing or providing targeted interventions for pupils (or staff) yourself or with other colleagues.

Action Steps

SMHL Action Step 1

How would you define your role and remit? Is this understanding shared with your leadership, school governors, colleagues, and pupils? If not, how can you start to promote your work. This will help you gain support for the approach to mental health and wellbeing you are leading.

SMHL Action Step 2

How are you working with your school leadership team? When does your role sit within the organisational structure of your school? We recommend the Mental Health and Wellbeing lead works closely with at least one member of school leadership team. The provision you are developing for school mental health will have elements that need to be considered as part of school strategy.

Stage 2 - Plan your programme or intervention

Now your role as Senior Mental Health Lead is starting to become defined and recognised in the school or college. What difference are you hoping to make? Do you want to develop a school mental health programme, service or intervention? Are you feeling confused or unsure where to start? Why not join our DfE approved Wellbeing Club for Senior Mental Health Leads to help you develop your plans and strategy.

Not sure where to start? Here are some tips and ideas for the different types of mental health and wellbeing support that can be developed:

1. Whole School Mental Health and Wellbeing Programme

A planned and incrementally implemented programme for the development of whole school wellbeing, i.e. ‘A whole school approach’?

  • For example, you may develop a package of training and support that enables everyone in the school develop positive mental health and wellbeing. For example our Wellbeing Toolkit Course can train your team of colleagues in a range of wellbeing strategies and resources for teaching and learning. helping you develop a cross curricular approach to children and young people's wellbeing.
  • Your embedded whole school approach will include staff wellbeing initiatives, classroom or curriculum strategies and developing targeted programmes of support.

2. Mental Health and Wellbeing Service

Do you want to adapt or build the mental health and wellbeing services in your school?

  • For example, mapping out all the services that support pupil mental health already taking place in your school. This can include anything that supports the promotion and protection of wellbeing.
  • Identifying any gaps in provision and planning and implementing a service offer to address these gaps.

For example joining our Wellbeing Club will provided you with tools and support to plan your service.

3. Specialist Mental Health Interventions for Pupils

Are you planning on implementing a targeted programme of support for a certain identified group of pupils (or staff) who are struggling with poor mental health, lacking resilience, low wellbeing, or barriers to learning?

  • What format will your intervention take? Options include group work or one to one, peer to peer or led by staff, provided by school staff or external providers.
  • It’s also helpful to consider if the provision is an early intervention; acting early by providing support which stops problems getting worse, provided by yourself, colleagues or even peer led.
  • You may also co-ordinate a range of targeted specialised provision for those that are already struggling with some identifies mental health problems. This may be provided by external agencies or providers such as CAMHS and third sector organisations depending on what is available in your local area.

By joining our Wellbeing Club will provided you with CPD, workshops and resources to develop your specialists mental health interventions as part of your whole school approach.

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Stage 3 - Get started with your plans

Developing mental health and wellbeing support for your school can feel confusing and overwhelming. There are several factors to consider when starting to develop your school mental health provision.

Delivering pupil support

Will you work with external providers or deliver the programme yourself by up skilling yourself or other members of your team?

For example, you could work with training providers (like us) to train you in classroom strategies for wellbeing that all staff can use, or train a core team of staff to provide a targeted intervention for a group of pupils who may be struggling with poor mental health.


Mental health and wellbeing are everyone’s business. It’s important there is a culture of positive mental health and wellbeing and that everyone has a shared language and understanding of your schools’ approach to mental health and wellbeing.

Will you all staff be trained un supporting pupil mental health or just key members? For example, you can provide an INSET day or staff twilight session to introduce your plans for school mental health and enable a shared understanding of the approach your school is taking. Our Wellbeing Club develops your ability and confidence to empower and inspire your team to make children and young people's mental health something they can influence on a day-to-day basis.


Do you have any budget to support your mental health programme development? How much is it and what will you/can you use it for? For example, you could spend your budget on workshops for targeted pupils but using the same funding to develop a whole school approach, through training or working with consultants may be much more cost effective and sustainable.

Do you have to seek external funding? Where will you look? How much do you require? For example, schools we have worked with have used pupil premium, CPD budget, applied for local authority funding ports, and been awarded national charity funding such as Big Lottery’s Awards for All. In one case even been funded by donations from philanthropic parents.

If you need training yourself to increase your knowledge and confidence the DfE have committed to funding the majority of schools to access Senior Mental Health Lead training by 2025. You can now access funding to pay for our programme for Senior Mental Health Leads


How will leadership be in your plan and implementation? What will their involvement be? How are they supporting you? For example, is there a Leader for School Mental Health and Wellbeing on your leadership team? Is mental health a regular topic on meeting agendas and is it part of your school strategic planning. Who else can help you implement changes from a strategic role to influence change?

Gaining support

Who is responsible for making and implementing key decisions or taking responsibility for specific tasks or actions in regard to your plans for developing mental health and wellbeing? Is it ALL your responsibility, who else can help you? For example, it helps if you have a team of like-minded people in your staff team support you implement your plans for mental health and wellbeing. We call these the ‘Wellbeing Champions’, can you identify some key people that can help you?

If you find yourself lacking support in your context, we highly recommend that you explore Wellbeing Club - a dedicated support group for mental health practitioners.

Not sure where to start?

We have put together a set of questions to help narrow down your focus, supporting you to make a start as Senior Mental Health Lead. You can even print these out and write down your answers:

  • What are the top 3 challenges you are facing now?
  • What do you want to change and improve regarding school mental health?
  • Who will benefit most and how you will identify or measure progress?
  • What would a successful mental health and wellbeing programme look like in your school?

Adopting a whole school approach

Our approach to developing mental health supports the development of whole school mental health, through the application of our step by step system model. Please feel free to access our free workshop where we introduce our model, and in the meantime you may also read an extensive outline about our whole school integrated system.