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Havering Council: Children and young people: mental health training and support for schools

Bringing together partners to support a whole school approach to mental health and the utilisation of a locally developed online resource setting out information on mental health and suicide prevention training and support for schools and families. This case study was done jointly with the National Suicide Prevention Alliance and forms part of our suicide prevention resource.

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The project

We have in place a local authority-wide, multi-agency steering group to oversee implementation of work to transform children and young people’s mental health.  One of the aims of this group is to support schools to take a whole school approach towards mental health.

We want to make it as easy as possible for schools to identify their training and support needs around mental health and suicide prevention and help them meet those. We have worked with a range of services and training providers to develop an evolving online directory of training and support available to school staff, pupils and parents, which is updated termly. We are also rolling out Mental Health Support Teams in schools over the next couple of years in Havering.

The challenge

The mental health of children and young people is under the national spotlight, especially related to Covid disruption to education. Locally, our Havering Children and Young People (CYP) Emotional Wellbeing Group meets every eight weeks.

The group is focused on the need to promote resilience, prevention and early intervention, and to equip school staff with the knowledge, skills and confidence to support young people’s mental health. But we also know that accessibility is key.

Teachers need to know at a glance what local and national support they can access, what training to prioritise for their school, which staff should attend which courses, or what funding streams or support packages they can avail of.

The method

The CYP Emotional Wellbeing Group is co-chaired by the council’s public health team and the local CAMHS commissioner. There are representatives from schools (both primary and secondary), Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, Local Authority Education Services (educational psychologists, attendance and behaviour officers, and alternative provision staff), Youth Offending Team, Youth Services, the police, and a range of voluntary sector organisations.

Partners who participate in the group help us understand what training and support is available and what is required in response to emerging needs. We share best practice, discuss gaps in provision, and explore how we, and they, could meet identified needs. 

This has helped the group understand the wealth of training and support available and, in response to feedback from school staff, a shared online resource was developed to bring together all relevant training and support in one place.

During the spring term 2022, we participated in the Link Programme (delivered by the Anna Freud Centre) to review the relationships between schools and mental health services.

Our involvement in the Link Programme enabled us to identify actions needed to make improvements. Actions include the use of the THRIVE Framework to map out all parts of the mental health pathway, including training and support for schools.

The focus of the group is becoming increasingly strategic, reviewing the provision of support available for CYP in its entirety and enhancing relationships between different sectors to address any gaps. Information about support and training available to schools has continued to be updated and shared regularly via our online resource as support and training available evolves with the changing needs.

The impact

The Havering CYP Emotional Wellbeing group has facilitated the building of relationships across such a wide range of organisations. It has helped us to identify a much broader range of training and support needs and to then develop a wider suite of training and available support around mental health and suicide prevention.

Examples of work we have available to support children and young people and those supporting them in schools include:

Support for children and young people

  • Havering Emotional Support Teams (HEST). HEST is a new collaborative service recently rolled out in 12 schools (eight primary schools and four secondary schools) in Havering. It is designed to work with mental health teams in schools to help meet the emotional wellbeing needs of children and young people. The HEST provision is expanding to cover additional schools in Havering in 2023.
  • Peace of Mind (POM) programme.  POM is delivered by the local authority’s’ Education Services to support mental wellbeing. Primary and secondary schools can refer pupils who are presenting with mental ill health, anxiety or are school refusers or non-engagers with education. The programme is an early intervention to increase pupils’ tolerance, resilience, confidence, engagement, attendance and achievement, whilst helping them to avoid prolonged emotional and mental ill-health that leads to school refusal. 

Training for schools

  • Creating a sustainable, local Emotional Literacy Support Assistant (ELSA) network. This involves training for teaching assistants to become ELSAs, strategies and tools to take back into school to use and develop with young people, and regular network meetings. 
  • Providing clarity to schools on which of the range of Youth Mental Health First Aid and other courses are most useful and relevant to which staff. 
  • Developing new training delivered through our Healthy Schools programme for primary and secondary school staff to transfer their knowledge about mental health into practical strategies and tools they can use every day in the classroom.  
  • Delivering in-school training specifically around suicide prevention. There are three Papyrus courses; 
    • 90-minute Suicide Prevention Overview Training (SP-OT) sessions 
    • half-day Suicide Prevention Explore, Ask, Keep-Safe (SP-EAK) workshops 
    • two-day Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) course. 
  • Offering training on specific areas of mental health such as Understanding Anxiety in Primary School Pupils and Understanding Self Harm in Secondary School Pupils, with support from the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust. 

Project enablers

Post-COVID, we have stronger relationships with headteachers and solid two-way relationships with schools. Mental health is higher on everyone’s agenda.

Whilst there is limited local quantitative data about the emerging mental health needs for CYP, the headteachers who attend the Havering CYP Emotional Wellbeing Group have been able to provide ongoing insight. Understanding the local needs for CYP following on from COVID-19, has helped service providers in making the case for increased provision of support for education settings.   

In addition, there is funding from the NHS Long-Term Plan aligned with the group where providers can submit bids for funding on a yearly basis. The group has been able to facilitate and encourage partners to work together more closely to utilise resources available and maximise impact on CYP and those closely connected to them.  

Project challenges

There are significant time constraints for school staff, it can be difficult for them to free up the time to attend training which has the knock-on effect of attendance. We have worked to resolve this to provide a range of course lengths, some in schools and some outside, which has enabled good attendance.  Delegate feedback evidences that the sessions are positive and generate a lot of conversation and enthusiasm.  

The online resource has evolved since it was first set-up covering a lot more information. Time constraints for school staff may also make it difficult for them to review the online resource and quickly get the information needed. Using the THRIVE framework to categorise support and training should make information easier to read.    

With COVID-19 contributing to the increased need for mental health support and training for CYP and the normal changes in staff members, we need to ensure that information is getting to the right people in the schools for effective dissemination of information. To mitigate this we will be engage with the wider school community to identify single points of contact for any information relating to mental health support.  

It was very time-consuming initially to set up a template for the training and support resource that worked for everyone, but now just once every term a reminder email is sent out to everyone to update their sections, making central coordination straightforward. 

Next steps

  • The group continues to meet every eight weeks to enhance relationships and have discussions about how CYP can be best supported with their mental health.
  • We will continue to review and refresh the online resource with information about training and support currently used to ensure that information is easily digestible by different parties using the THRIVE framework.   
  • Develop a resource which schools can also share with parents and carers to aid increased awareness of mental health support.  
  • Expand engagement with families and schools to get feedback on the support currently available and how resources should be presented.  

Advice for other local areas

  • To have a passionate individual involved from the start, as they will need to make time to contact and meet with stakeholders to galvanise interest and begin work on bringing the resource together 
  • Multi-agency partnership is key – you need a range of people around the table to bring ideas together and take ownership for the part they play in the wider system 
  • Value the expertise and input of everyone involved and acknowledge that they all bring unique contributions 


  • Sedina Lewis, Public Health Specialist, Havering Council  
  • Claire Alp, Senior Public Health Specialist, Havering Council

National Suicide Prevention Alliance

This case study was done jointly with the National Suicide Prevention Alliance and forms part of our suicide prevention resource.

National Suicide Prevention Alliance logo