October 7, 2021
DETAILED GUIDE On the ROLE AND REMIT oF A SENIOR MENTAL HEALTH LEAD
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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:
A planned and incrementally implemented programme for the development of whole school wellbeing, i.e. ‘A whole school approach’?
Do you want to adapt or build the mental health and wellbeing services in your school?
For example joining our Wellbeing Club will provided you with tools and support to plan your service.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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:
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.