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Mental health support teams and Centres of Excellence.

In January 2023, Derby and Derbyshire will see an additional two Mental Health Support Teams (MHST) allocated to our education settings. The closing date for expressions of interest was Monday 30 May 2022, using the attached form.

Changing Lives (local name given to MHST in Derby and Derbyshire) has been operating in our area for three years and in that time have worked with schools, children and young people and parents/carers in supporting better mental health. Changing Lives service currently supports a number of schools. The service supports children and young people with mild to moderate mental health needs and their families; primarily MHST will work with those aged between 5 and 18 years of age, and over 18 where the CYP has SEND or is a care leaver. The main aims of the service are to:                                      

  • Deliver evidence-based interventions to children and young people with mild-moderate mental health needs.
  • Support a whole school approach to mental health and wellbeing.
  • Support coordination and joint working with other providers in the area building on current support.

The team will be based in a secondary school. This setting will be known as a ‘Centre of Excellence; which is normally a secondary school and its feeder schools. When considering your expression of interest, it is important to point out that the Centre of Excellence will need to be able to provide a space where the team can work and have available private spaces to see children and young people.

What is a Mental Health Support Team and what does it do?

The MHST form part of the mental health approach within education settings, providing timely, evidence-based support, care and interventions for children and young people who are experiencing mild-to-moderate mental health problems within the current referral criteria.

MHST consist of senior clinicians and higher-level therapists, and Education Mental Health Practitioners (EMHPs). The MHST will work with senior mental health leads within schools to support wider, whole school approaches to mental health and wellbeing across the education setting, including advice, consultation, training and psychoeducation. Staff from each MHST will be responsible for a defined cluster or group of education settings, building a relationship with each, including the senior mental health lead.

MHST is additional and integrated with existing support and trained to deliver specific mental health support which is complimentary to other professional roles and organisations, for example, educational psychologists, school based counsellors, school nurses, education welfare officers, pastoral care, VCS, local authority provision, primary care, all other commissioned mental health services.

The service is available all year, not just term time and they co-produce their offer and activities with children, young people, parents/carers and school staff. They are embedded to the whole school approach ethos and support that.

MHST are expected to reach the National Health Service England National Outcome Target of 6582 referrals by end of 31 March 2024. It is therefore important that schools and MHST work closely together to ensure that children and their families can access this service. Currently the MHST targets are 2000 whole school approach contacts at each Centre of Excellence per year and 500 direct referrals to MHST per Centre of Excellence per year (these targets may change).

What is a Centre of Excellence?

A Centre of Excellence is normally a secondary school and its feeder schools. However, there is an example of a secondary special needs school and pupil referral unit that makes up a centre of excellence.

What is a whole school approach? 

A whole school approach is one that pervades all aspects of school life, including:

  • Culture, ethos and environment: the health and wellbeing of children and young people and staff is promoted through the ‘hidden’ or ‘informal’ curriculum, including leadership practice, the school’s policies, values and attitudes, together with the social and physical environment
  • Teaching: using the curriculum to develop children and young people’s knowledge about health and wellbeing
  • Partnerships with families and the community: proactive engagement with families, outside agencies, and the wider community to promote consistent support for children’s health and wellbeing

MHST work within and support the whole school approach.

What are the benefits of hosting a MHST?

The expected outcomes of MHST are:

  • A timely response to supporting children and young people around their mental health.
  • Better mental health and wellbeing amongst children and young people.
  • A more positive experience for children and young people and parents and carers with improved knowledge and confidence dealing with mental health issues.
  • Education settings feeling better equipped and supported to provide support to children and young people to look after their own mental health and encourage children and young people to seek help if required, gaining a better understanding of their mental health and wellbeing needs.

The role of schools

Schools will be expected to sign the Changing Lives Memorandum of Understanding which stipulates roles and responsibilities of schools / colleges / MHST provider and Joined Up Care Derbyshire Children (JUCDC). On signing up to the MHST programme schools are asked to agree to the following to ensure successful implementation and delivery of the programme: 

  • Give the name of a senior lead/point of contact to work with the programme lead in setting up MHSTs; (to act in the role of school MHST co-ordinator)
  • Commit to involve children and young people and their families/carers in the design and set-up of the teams
  • Commit to engage fully with monitoring and evaluation requirements
  • Commit to the principle that the introduction of the MHST will complement, rather than substitute existing support 
  • Offer trainee placements for Education Mental Health Practitioners during their training year
  • Provide appropriate accommodation that could be used for group work and individual interventions, and office space for the MHSTs
  • Support MHST in delivery the whole school approach and ensure that CYP can be referred to the service
  • Assist MHST to integrate into the school community.

How are Centres of Excellence chosen?

This is based on an expression of interest and evidence provided by the setting, using the following proxy indicators;

  1. Deprivation rankings
  2. EHCP and SEND
  3. Child in care / child in need and child protection data
  4. School exclusion data

For further information contact Donna Green, Senior Commissioning Manager Children and Young People, Derby and Derbyshire CCG. Email:

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