See our summaries of key government documents and guidance in relation to mental health and wellbeing of children and young people and school. 

Government Guidance for Mental Health and Wellbeing Support in Schools and Colleges (September 2021)

This government document gives a range of advice on what help you can get to develop a whole school or college approach to mental health and wellbeing. It provides guidance on support available locally, senior mental health leads training, training available locally, the latest edition of whole school or college approach, updated for autumn 2021 by Public Health England (PHE) and the Department for Education, and mental health and wellbeing resources.

Counselling in schools: a blueprint for the future: Departmental advice for school leaders and counsellors (February 2016)

This government document gives a range of advice on establishing counselling services within schools. It states: ‘Our strong expectation is that, over time, all schools should make counselling services available to their pupils.’  There is a very helpful range of advice on the issues that schools need to consider when they have a counselling service already or where they are considering establishing one. This includes issues such as: Commissioning; Quality Assurance and Impact Assessments; Managing referrals; Confidentiality and recording; Referrals to other agencies

CQC reports

In January 2017, The Prime Minister asked the Care Quality Commission to undertake a series of reviews of services for children and young people’s mental health. The Phase One Report (October 2017) and provides an overview of the findings, raising a number of concerns about the complexity and ‘fragmented’ picture of services. The Phase Two Report – ‘Are We Listening?’ was published in March 2018 and is particularly concerned with listening to the views and experiences of young people. It makes a wide number of recommendations regarding the way forward and the need to have children and young people’s mental health as a national priority.

Five Year Forward View for Mental Health (2016)

The Five Year Forward View sets out the strategic plan for the NHS to meet its aims of achieving ‘parity of esteem’ between mental health services and those for physical health. It covers adult and children’s mental health services. Chapter 2 is particularly relevant to children and young people. For children’s services, the plan is designed to meet the strategic objectives set out in Future in Mind. It will conclude in 2021. Visit NHS England’s Mental Health Taskforce pages for more details on the specific objectives. Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) have additional funding for the five-year period. They should publish an annual Local Transformation Plan on the local authority’s website setting out how they will achieve the aims.

The key ambitions are:

  • To increase the numbers of children accessing services by 70,000 over the five year period. This is also calculated as a percentage of those children identified as likely to be suffering a diagnosable mental health disorder. In 2004 this was calculated as being 1 in 10 children. In 2016, the access rate was approximately 25% of this.
  • Ensuring that 95% of children identified as having an eating disorder are seen within one week for urgent cases and four week for less urgent cases
  • Improving the arrangements for children experiencing a mental health crisis
  • Reducing the numbers of children in in-patient beds and ensuring that they are placed as close to home as possible
  • Increasing the mental health workforce and improving training for existing staff

Future in Mind (March 2015)

A key strategic document setting out the long-term strategy for improving Child Mental Health in England. The context was the Government and NHS vision to achieve ‘parity of esteem’ between services for mental health and services for physical health – across all age groups. It acknowledged the need for great improvements in the services for children and young people. It was published in March 2015 but this remains the key strategic document for the Government and NHS in setting out the vision for future services and the components of the service that would require improvement.

Government Response to the Consultation on Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision: a Green Paper and Next Steps

Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health: a green paper was published on 4 December 2017. The aim was to support and complement the aims of Future in Mind and the Five Year Forward View. Following a consultation period the Government published their response to the consultation on 25 July 2018. There are three key proposals:

  • To incentivise and support all schools and colleges to identify and train a Designated Senior Lead for mental health.To fund new
  • Mental Health Support Teams, which will be supervised by NHS children and young people’s mental health staff.
  • To pilot a four week waiting time for access to specialist NHS children and young people’s mental health services.

The aim is to extend these to 20-25% of England by 2023 and across all of England by 2028. The Government is establishing a number of Trailblazer sites to pilot the approaches. Expressions of Interest were due by 17 September 2018 and the Trailblazer sites are expected to be fully operational by December 2019.

The original consultation document can be accessed at:  Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision.pdf

Mental health and behaviour in schools: Departmental advice for school staff (November 2018)

Non-statutory guidance to schools published by the Department of Education. It gives a range of advice to school leaders and pastoral staff about:

  • Prevention of mental ill health and promoting good health within schools
  • Identification of pupils where they may be experiencing difficulties
  • Interventions that may be available
  • Referrals and commissioning

Public Health England: Promoting children and young people’s emotional health and wellbeing

Published by Public Health England in conjunction with the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition. It sets out the key features of how to establish a whole school approach to addressing the emotional wellbeing of children in school. There are eight key features it offers practical advice for and example of schools that are taking strides to implement each of them:

  • Leadership and Management, which is at the centre
  • Curriculum, Teaching and Learning
  • Enabling student voice to influence decisions
  • Staff development
  • Identifying need and monitoring impact
  • Working with parents/ carers
  • Targeted support and appropriate referral
  • An ethos and environment that promotes respect and values diversity

Supporting mental health in schools and colleges

Supporting mental health in schools and colleges: pen portraits of provision (May 2018) – A Department of Education document that sets out the findings from research undertaken on their behalf. It gives helpful feedback and detailed information from a total of 36 schools sites that have initiated a range of activities to support the emotional wellbeing and mental health within their schools.

Supporting mental health in schools and colleges: survey (August 2017) – The Department of Education survey was carried out in all schools and colleges in England during 2016 and 2017 to give an overview of the current provisions being provided within schools to support children with their emotional health and wellbeing. The overall rate of return to the survey nationally was 21%, which is regarded as being statistically significant. The rate of return in London was substantially lower than this. The key findings were that 64% of those schools and colleges who responded had a counselling service available to pupils. 49% had an identified lead member of staff for child mental health.

Relationships, health and sex education statutory guidance: CASPAR briefing

Download the briefing on the DfE guidance for Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education, and Health Education in England (PDF)

The NHS Long Term Plan 

The NHS Long Term Plan was developed in partnership with frontline health and care staff, patients and their families and other experts.