The School Mental Health Specialist programme (SMHS) is a new programme designed for those working in schools and colleges providing mental health support to pupils.
When we researched this new programme, we found that there are many short mental health courses, which typically last a few days. However, there are few 2-year programmes accredited at Postgraduate level. Therefore, whilst there will be some coverage of similar themes, the School Mental Health Specialist has greater depth and breadth of coverage.
The programme has been designed exclusively for application in school and colleges and is only for those working in educational settings. This means that the themes covered will all address the issues and practicalities of schools and colleges.
In some schools and colleges, especially smaller settings, it might be that you are also providing the majority of mental health support and interventions to pupils. In this case, the School Mental Health Specialist programme (SMHS) will be relevant to you. Alternatively, if you lead other colleagues who provide mental health support for pupils, it might be that the SMHS programme is more relevant for them.
Training for the Designated Senior Lead for Mental Health looks at the whole school approach to mental health, taking the strategic perspective, managing school and college level change and working with governors. The School Mental Health Specialist (SMHS) programme is focused on supporting pupils directly and improving the mental health of identified pupils. Hence, the two programmes cover different aspects of ensuring holistic mental health support across your setting. In some schools it might be that the Senior Lead for Mental Health is also providing the majority of support to identified pupils, in which case the SMHS programme would also be relevant.
The two year SMHS programme costs a total of £7,750 which can be paid in instalments. The fees will need to be covered by the colleague completing the programme, their school/college, or a mix of both.
If you have applied and been accepted onto the School Mental Health Specialist programme for the 2021 cohort by April 30th then you or your educational setting have the option to pay the fees for the course in three instalments rather than two instalments. Please see the details for when payment is due below:
Two instalments – the 1st instalment is due by July 30th 2021 (£4,500) and the second instalment is due by July 30th 2022 (£3,250).
Three instalments (only for accepted applications by April 30th 2021) – the 1st instalment is due by May 30th 2021 (£3,000), the 2nd instalment is due by September 30th 2021 (£2,375) and the 3rd instalment is due by September 30th 2022 (£2,375).
In addition, there are the additional costs of travel to/from the learning visit to another school/college, which takes place in year 2 of the programme. The participant will be required to be working in a school/college and so usual employment costs associated with that will be covered by the school/college.
Many schools/colleges are choosing to spend some of their CPD budget by covering or contributing towards the programme fees for a member of staff to attend the SMHS programme. Other than the programme fees there are the travel costs associated with visiting another school or college to learn from their peers’ setting, which takes place once in the second year.
As the participant is employed at the school/college the usual employment costs will continue to be covered by the school/college. As there are training days the school/college may need to backfill for their absence.
Whilst not expected to be a new financial cost, the SMHS will require support and guidance from a senior lead. Also, the school is expected to host a learning visit by a peer on the programme.
Implementation in school/college is key to the success of the programme and the work of the School Mental Health Specialist. Therefore, prior to confirmation on the programme we will seek assurances from the school/college that they are able to adequately support the participant to undertake the key activities on the programme.
We will also run a briefing for the senior lead for mental health, so that they understand the role that they play in enabling their colleague to perform well. In addition, we will provide a termly guide for the senior lead, so that they understand the key requirements as they progress through the programme.
You will get support from your academic tutors in terms of writing frames, assessment guidance and assignment tutorials for each of the module assignments. There will be tutorials and support from course tutors on school based issues that relate directly to the subject matter of each module (e.g. strategies to identify student needs, intervention approaches). As a student of Leeds Beckett you have access to the Skills for Learning Support, disability advice and support, pastoral support and much more that can be seen here.
Alongside the support you will have from a member of staff at school (e.g. the DSL for Mental Health or the DSL for Safeguarding) in terms of school based issue you are also entitled to two supervision sessions in the final term of Year 1 and two supervision sessions in the first term of Year 2. Minds Ahead will provide, pay for or help to organise a suitably qualified and experienced psychotherapist to provide this supervision.
Implementation of learning is key to the success of this programme and a requirement when it comes to assessment. Therefore, it is vital that the school/college supports participants on the programme to implement their learning and try new approaches. The participant will need to be working closely with identified vulnerable pupils and supporting their mental health, their parents and other school/college staff.
The programme assessment will require activities such as evaluations of practice, journals of working with pupils, presentations of initiatives for staff, the creation of resources to use in school/college and the creating improvement plans.
Each module is expected to take around 200 notional learning hours. This comprises approximately 25 hours of input and support from teaching staff. The remainder is split between applying practice at your school or college and guided independent study. Each module will take one school term to complete and will include the submission of an assessed piece of work at the end.
There is no need to have experience of working at masters level, or other recent academic study, as we will provide guidance and support throughout the programme, however, it is a requirement to be working in or with schools / colleges in a role that supports pupils with their mental health.
A large part of the course will be delivered online, enabling you to access the programme at a time convenient to you, however, there will also be online live events, which will require your online attendance.
In developing this new role and programme we have worked with a broad range of schools across all phases and of varying scales. Any decisions regarding salary expectations for the role will be a school/college decision.
Also, some schools have staff which will have the mental health specialist work full time on providing mental health support, whereas other schools will have staff with additional responsibilities, such as leadership, teaching or other duties. Each school/college will decide on the best structure to meet their local needs.
In devising this role we have worked with special mental health schools, as well other schools working extensively with a range of mental health services, to carefully consider how the School Mental Health Specialist role will compliment existing services.
A School Mental Health Specialist (SMHS) will adopt a public mental health philosophy, drawing on the depth of evidence of effective practice which can be provided in universal settings, such as schools and colleges. They will take a holistic educational perspective, locating the pupil in a broad sense within the school / college.
The SMHS identify needs and provide support to pupils. This is different to other mental health professionals who may diagnose clinical or medical disorders and work to treat these. Just as other educational staff are, the SMHS will support pupils who are also accessing clinical interventions by specialists. The programme places a significant emphasis on working with other professionals to ensure the best outcomes for the pupil.
The 2-year programme comprises six modules, each lasting one school term and ending with an assessed piece of work. Most will be completed online, allowing you to access the content, reading, engage in discussions with fellow students via online forums and to complete journals and other formative assessment at times that suits your other commitments.
There will also be online live events, such as webinars and tutorials. The final module will include visiting another school and hosting another student at your school.
The programme covers general, evidence-based approaches to supporting mental health and most of the core content will apply to any setting and location. However, the programme will also link to relevant national policy frameworks and national educational departmental guidance. As a Masters programme, participants will be expected to undertake a high degree of self-study and so will be expected to look at the relevant policies and guidance documents for their context.
These are in addition to the usual requirements to be able to complete at postgraduate level, although there is no requirement for having prior postgraduate or undergraduate qualifications. Participants will also need to have the time to complete the modules, apply the learning in your school or college and complete the assignments.
There are some similarities to the EMHP course, in that the School Mental Health Specialist is a practice-based PG Dip, focused on meeting the pre-clinical needs of children and young people. However, the key differences are that EMHPs will be employed in local NHS provision and will probably work across multiple schools/colleges, reporting to the NHS. The School Mental Health Specialist will be a school/college staff member reporting to the head teacher, or other senior school lead. They will be exclusively school focused.
When we researched the School Mental Health Specialist programme, we found that headteachers want to have a member of staff on site, working for them as a part of their team, trained in mental health support and much preferred this to having to go through local referral processes. Schools will also work with EMHPs and other specialist services in their area and the programme recognises this through the content and assignments.