Mental Health Services and School Links Pilot evaluation


Department for Education

In September 2015, Ecorys was commissioned by the Department for Education to undertake an independent evaluation of the Mental Health Services and Schools Link Pilots programme, covering 22 local areas and 255 schools in England. As a whole, the programme aimed to improve joint working between schools and specialist Children and Young People Mental Health Services (CYPMHS), as well as to provide evidence to inform national policy development in this area. 

A comprehensive approach to evaluation was put in place, including survey research with schools and health services, workshop observations and in depth case study visits. Ongoing feedback was provided to help schools and health services to benchmark and to develop their practice. 

Final results showed the clear importance of establishing direct dialogue and clear protocols between schools and specialist mental health services to avoid young people being referred inappropriately, unnecessary delays, and mistrust between professionals. Having a lead point of contact facilitated joint working, resulting in school staff often reporting improved confidence in supporting children with mental health issues, and health professionals having a better understanding of the challenges experienced by teachers in a school environment. 

The key recommendation related to the need to examine the best approach to scaling-up this model so that all schools within a given local area could benefit, and to develop stronger local networks of Children and Young People’s Mental Health Services. 

The full set of findings from the report directly informed the decision by the Department to commission an expanded programme with a focus on scaling and sustainability at a local area level. An expanded programme was launched by the Department in autumn 2017 with this also being evaluated by Ecorys and a final report due in 2019.

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