Teaching assistants will be trained to respond to pupils’ mental health issues

A new grant will train pastoral and support staff to spot mental-health warning signs in pupils, and to intervene quickly and effectively

A scheme to train teaching assistants to recognise and respond to mental ill-health in pupils has just been awarded a grant by the government.

Mental health charity Charlie Waller Memorial Trust will use its £175,545 grant to provide face-to-face training for more than 1,000 members of school staff in schools across southern and western England.

In particular, the scheme will train pastoral and support staff to spot signs of mental ill-health, and to provide effective early intervention and support.

Recognise and respond

On its grant application, the charity stated: “School pastoral and support staff are uniquely well-placed to recognise and respond to mental ill-health in pupils, and to provide effective one-to-one support, to prevent mental-health deterioration and promote positive outcomes.

“This workforce’s skill is currently under-developed and under-utilised.”

Over the course of a year, each school involved in the project will receive 10 sessions, covering a range of mental health issues and early intervention strategies, including listening and support skills.

The charity will also offer 20 online question-and-answer sessions with mental-health experts. These will be available for all schools across the country.

Warning signs

Claire Stafford, chief executive of the trust, pointed out that mental health issues – ranging from depression and anxiety to eating disorders and low self-esteem – are on the rise among pupils.

“This funding will help us make a difference by upskilling teachers and support staff to help recognise the warning signs, support young people, and know when they need to make a referral to wider services,” she said.

The grant the trust will receive is part of a £3 million funding Health Education England award, made by the Department of Health. The money is being distributed to organisations which offer mental health care to children and teenagers.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “We want to end the taboo around mental health and help more young people than ever before.”

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