The NFER review of the role of Primary Mental Health Workers in education

Client: NFER | NFER Contact: Emily Lamont

A number of sources over the last ten years have pointed to the increasing numbers of children experiencing mental health problems in the UK and estimates suggest that 20 per cent of children may suffer mental health problems at some stage (Audit Commission, 1999). The majority of these children never reach specialist services and their needs have to be addressed within mainstream services, such as schools. The current model of service delivery within Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) suggests that schools/teachers have a major role to play in identifying mental health problems early, offering general advice to children, young people and their families, promoting mental health awareness, and in the prevention of mental health problems. However, school staff need appropriate training and support to fulfil this model of delivery.

The NFER’s research on ‘CAMHS funding and priorities’  highlighted the significant progress being made towards comprehensive CAMHS. Amongst other actions, local authorities were increasing the number of Primary Mental Health Workers (PMHWs) who work with universal services (for example, schools) to deal with low level mental health needs. PMHWs, as well as working in schools, sometimes work with other professionals to provide services and offer consultation to general practitioners (GPs), health visitors, school nurses, and specialists within education such as special educational needs coordinators (SENCOs) and learning support assistants (LSAs).

This evidence synthesis provides a timely review of the specific role of the PMHW in education, and will provide a succinct overview of evidence leading to policy and practice implications. The research forms part of the NFER’s strand of evidence syntheses.

Time scale: August 2008 - August 2010

NFER Project Code: PMH

Further information on this project

Research report/findings