Cheshire East’s Emotionally Healthy Schools Project

The Emotionally Healthy Schools Project is an innovative partnership committed to enhancing the capacity of schools in Cheshire East. The project’s aim is to promote positive emotional health and wellbeing; and to develop stronger working relationships with agencies outside of the school environment.

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The challenge

The Director of Public Health’s Annual Report 2015 focused on supporting the mental health of children and young people. Data and consultation with children and young people and their parents and carers had identified significant issues in relation to their mental health and wellbeing. The Joint Strategic Needs Assessment identified a number of key concerns, including:

  • common mental health problems among children and young people in the area
  • significant concerns raised by young people about variations in mental health support that is being provided by schools
  • the complexity of the local system of provision for mental health services for young people, provided by the NHS and voluntary and community sector organisations.

In response to this, the Health and Wellbeing Strategy identified the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people as a priority.  Partners were determined to give children and young people the best start in life; ensuring that they were supported to feel healthy and safe and able to reach their full potential.

The solution

Cheshire East’s Health and Wellbeing Board, in recognition of the complexity of the system and the need to improve its focus and connectivity, took ownership of the children’s health and wellbeing agenda; and in November 2015 became the accountable body for the Children and Young People’s Improvement Plan. At the same meeting the Board endorsed the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Transformation Plans for its two Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).

One of the key areas of focus was Emotionally Healthy Schools. The Emotionally Healthy Schools project is a multi-agency project; providing a mixture of whole school and targeted interventions for children and young people, underpinned by access to mental health and wellbeing training, consultation and reflective practice sessions for school staff.  Phase One was designed in accordance with the principles outlined with the Department of Education’s (2015) white paper: Phase Two of this project, as a key part of the Local Transformation Plan, is currently underway, and aims to support Cheshire East’s vision for the wider transformation of children and young people’s mental health.

Emotionally Healthy Schools Phase Two is aligned to the Health Promotion and Illness Prevention outcomes for children and young people in the Public Health Outcomes Framework.  This programme aims to acknowledge the vital role played by schools in promoting and supporting the emotional wellbeing of their pupils, and seeks to build knowledge, expertise and quality; and to strengthen relationships between schools and wider services.

Emotionally Healthy Schools Phase Two builds upon the developments, relationships and learning established in Phase One which ended in December 2016. Phase Two seeks to build capability and capacity using the THRIVE model.

Emotionally Healthy Schools Phase 2 has three linked components:

Schools Leadership Programme

Learning indicated that the leadership required to ensure the engagement and commitment of time by schools needed to come from the schools themselves. There was also a need to change the culture and to build resilience in schools; which again can only be achieved through leadership from the schools themselves. The leadership programme ensures that leadership comes from within.

LINK Programme

The LINK programme will provide the following:

  • Pathways, assessment and threshold development; including clear, consistent pathways for mental health support.  This will include the development of a standardised local children’s mental health assessment tool, and the development of a single point of contact and brokerage to ensure schools are supported to access resources and manage onward referrals
  • Mental health service consultation sessions, offering advice on the best pathway for each individual and development of care plans
  • Group facilitated reflection, to enable pastoral staff in schools to reflect on practice
  • Training delivery to as large a number of schools as possible.

Tools for Schools

‘Tools for Schools’ is a programme aimed at delivering a core programme of training to schools in Cheshire East, as well as supporting school staff in using effective interventions that assist wellbeing.

The Emotionally Healthy Schools Project will reach all schools and colleges by March 2019.

The impact

The project brings together partners from Cheshire East, including the council, NHS South Cheshire CCG, NHS East Cheshire CCG, the education sector, health providers and the voluntary sector. 

10 senior leaders from schools across the borough have been appointed to advise and lead the roll-out of the education leadership elements of Emotionally Healthy Schools Phase Two.

To date six teaching staff have been trained, and the Cheshire East Emotionally Healthy Schools Project is the first in the country to achieve Specialist Leaders in Education (SLE) for emotional and mental health education, through the National Teaching College.

Developing local leadership and accountability

Cheshire East’s Emotionally Healthy Schools Project has been achieved by developing a strong collaborative working relationship between all partners involved, and the creation of a Children and Young People’s Mental Health Strategy Group. The Health and Wellbeing Board (HWB) has been instrumental in providing the platform for mental health issues and concerns to be debated, spurring local action.

The Cheshire East Emotionally Healthy Schools Project has a pooled budget, administered via a memorandum of understanding between partners.  The aim is to achieve transformational change in early intervention and prevention practice using a whole school and college approach.

The Emotionally Healthy Schools Phase Two Project is also subject to rigorous contract monitoring.


Guy Kilminster

Corporate Manager – Health and Wellbeing, Cheshire East Council

[email protected]

This case study, written by Su Turner of Insight to Impact Consulting Ltd, is taken from the forthcoming LGA publication ‘Lessons in local leadership and accountability for children’s mental health services’.

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