Mental Health in Schools Working Group: terms of reference

Terms of reference for the Mental Health in Schools Working Group.


The Scottish Government’s Mental Health Strategy published in March 2017 sets out the vision to improve mental health in Scotland. A key section in the Strategy deals with prevention and early intervention which outlines the ambition that every child and young person should have appropriate access to emotional and mental wellbeing support in school. The Mental Health Strategy also included a specific action to review personal and social education (PSE) delivery, including the role of pastoral guidance in local authority schools, and services for counselling for children and young people.

The Government’s commitment to supporting positive mental health was further strengthened through the wide ranging commitments in the 2018-2019 Programme for Government, which set out a £250 million package of measures to support positive mental health and prevent ill health. This included a commitment for access to a school counsellor in every secondary school, as well as a commitment to enhancing support and professional learning materials for teachers on good mental health, including, that by the end of academic year 2019-2020, every local authority will be offered training for teachers in Scotland’s Mental Health First Aid (SMHFA), using a ‘train the trainer’ model to enable dissemination to all schools. 

To support our work in this area, ensuring strategic overview and appropriate links between the various strands of work, we have established the Mental Health in Schools Working Group.  


The Working Group’s remit has been informed by our work on the PSE Review, the need to respond to provide professional learning to school staff in mental health, and our work to provide access to counselling through schools.  

The Working Group will develop a new mental health and wellbeing professional learning resource for primary/secondary school staff to support children and young people. The Group will also identify currently available packages for school staff to support children and young people’s mental health and this will also inform a gap analysis to identify what further resources may be required. The outputs from the Group will be placed into a toolkit of support for schools that is being delivered through the recommendations of the PSE Review. All outputs of the group will complement the range of whole-school and targeted approaches already available in schools to help support the mental, emotional, social and physical wellbeing of children and young people, including counsellors in schools, and will not duplicate any resources/professional learning already available. 

In the development of this Terms of Reference it has been recognised there are a number of levels on which we need to address mental health education and support within a school environment. This work will therefore be taken forward within a framework of three ‘pillars’.  

Three pillars of activity have been identified as the initial focus of the Group:   

  • pillar one – development of a professional learning resource for all school staff
  • pillar two – development of a framework on implementing, developing and evaluating a whole school approach to support children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing
  • pillar three – development of a ‘one-stop shop’ highlighting effective practical resources for school staff to support children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing

Pillar one

The Working Group will develop a new mental health and wellbeing professional learning resource for primary/secondary/special school staff which will provide essential learning required to support children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing. 

The Group will consider currently available professional learning and delivery methods and recommend a model that can be delivered within budget and timescales. This professional learning will be available in addition to the current SMHFA training programme and will be tailored specifically for all school staff, will align with ‘Getting it right for every child’ and will be underpinned by children’s rights. The professional learning will equip all school staff (primary, secondary and special) to:

  • support children and young people to promote positive mental wellbeing in themselves and others 
  • to provide staff with the skills to recognise the signs of mental health difficulties 
  • provide knowledge of basic coping strategies for school staff to utilise in order to assist children and young people when they identify stress or other concerning mental wellbeing behaviours
  • provide signposting to specialist services when appropriate

The Group will also work with Education Scotland and the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) to seek professional learning recognition for the training and will explore the best platform options available for this to be hosted.  

It is estimated that development of the new professional learning resource will take 9-12 months to develop and will be available for all school staff in 2021.  

Pillar two 

Every child and young person should have access to emotional and mental wellbeing support in school; the role of personal and social education as well as the overall ethos and culture within a school is crucial in this aspect. The importance of a whole school approach was highlighted in the PSE review as a key aspect to promote positive mental health for children and young people and to enable the link to be made between mental health services across education and in the wider community. 

The whole school approach framework will help all school staff to promote children and young people’s mental, emotional and social wellbeing and assist in responding to and supporting children and young people’s mental health in schools. The Working Group will draw on existing frameworks available nationally to support schools to build on and improve effective practice across the school environment.

Pillar three 

The Group will consider the current suite of resources available through the National Improvement Hub and partner organisations and undertake a gap analysis to identify what further resources may be required. This will form part of the toolkit of support for schools.

The resources will include guidance and lesson plans and will signpost school staff to national and local organisations which can provide further support for universal, targeted or intensive interventions where appropriate. The aim is that the resources will equip teachers and all school staff to:  

  • draw on a range of effective learning materials to deliver targeted lessons and activities on mental wellbeing
  • provide signposting for children, young people, parents and carers to a choice of existing national/local mental health programmes and support which are freely available from third sector organisations/charities
  • provide signposting to the range of materials that are provided through Education Scotland
  • provide a range of lesson plans that have been informed by the development of the learning resource in pillar one


Funding for the professional learning delivery has still to be confirmed. The Working Group will consider various options available (both face to face training and online) and provide a breakdown on each of the options. 


It is estimated that it will take approximately 9-12 months to develop the new professional learning resource for school staff. The first meeting will take place in November 2019. Meetings will be held on a regular basis thereafter. 

Chair and membership

The group will be chaired by the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES). 

Membership will include:

  • Mental Health Unit, Scottish Government 
  • Education Scotland 
  • City of Edinburgh Council
  • North Ayrshire Council
  • Fife Council
  • Borders Council 
  • Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)
  • Association of Scottish Principal Educational Psychologists (ASPEP)
  • NHS Health Scotland
  • School Nurse Implementation Group
  • School Leaders Scotland (SLS)
  • Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS)
  • Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) 
  • National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT)
  • VOICE – The union for education professionals
  • SAMH
  • See Me
  • Barnardos
  • Mental Health Foundation
  • Mental Health UK
  • Support in Mind

Correspondence members

  • Teacher Education, Leadership and Reform Unit, Scottish Government 
  • Professional Learning and Leadership Team, Education Scotland
  • Inclusion, Wellbeing  andEqualities Team, Education Scotland 
  • NHS Health Scotland – Research Unit
  • Transdisciplinary Research for the Improvement of Youth Mental Public Health (Triumph Network)
  • School Health and Wellbeing Improvement Research Network (SHINE)

Accountability - Secretariat

The Scottish Government’s Learning Directorate will provide secretariat support to the Group. This will include: 

  • organisation of meetings 
  • recording of minutes of meetings and publishing these on the Scottish Government website 
  • provide a central point of contact for Group members

Health and Wellbeing in Schools Team 
Learning Directorate 
Scottish Government

June 2020

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