Mental health professional development for school-based staff: A rapid review

In partnership with Minds Ahead


10th October 2023

We are pleased to respond to #WorldMentalHealthDay2023 by sharing our newest report on developing mental health professional development for school-based staff.

*Access the full report PDF here.

The school mental health social enterprise Minds Ahead commissioned  The Centre for Education and Youth (CfEY) to examine the current landscape for mental health-related training and development for school-based staff and explore how it might be improved.

This report combines a rapid review of evidence on mental health in schools and the current Continuing Professional Development (CPD) offer available to school staff, with analysis and recommendations provided by an expert group of sector leaders.

What led to this project

Our newest report is the continuation of a long-standing partnership between CfEY and Minds Ahead, which previously led to a 2018 report addressing the gaps that children and young people face in getting support for their mental health in schools. We continue this agenda by exploring the professional development sector and evaluating emerging needs.

We lay out the current state of play for young people’s mental health in England. This is followed by a review of currently available Continuing Professional Development (CPD) courses for school staff and explore the strengths, weaknesses, and gaps in three case studies of these courses. Finally, we present a discussion of the ways forward for developing future mental health training, based on expert opinion from sector leaders.


We identify four key areas Professional Development courses should focus on, according to school staff’s needs.

  1. A clear and consistent understanding of mental health and the role of the school: There is a lack of consistency in the understanding and knowledge of young people’s mental health needs across the school community and the role of the school in supporting these.
  2. Ongoing, up-to-date and relevant training: School staff are not receiving ongoing, up-to-date training in mental health. The time and resources invested in school mental health professional development are often limited to a few key people.
  3. Training that supports increased confidence: Staff confidence is a key area for improvement. A lack of confidence in managing young people’s mental health may result from a lack of awareness or understanding of mental health needs and strategies for support; fears around risk and accountability; or a lack of confidence in working with different families, cultures, values, or attitudes.
  4. Emphasis on looking after their own wellbeing: school leaders should prioritise staff wellbeing. When staff work on their resilience, manage their emotions, and develop strategies to enhance their own wellbeing, they are able to support students struggling with mental health issues more effectively.

In light of these areas of need, we recommend positive actions that can be taken by the Department for Education and government, school and trust leaders, universities and training providers, and other third-party stakeholders (further detail in the report).

These recommendations arise from the need to refine the role of schools in the broader support system for children and young people’s mental health. They aim to contribute to system-wide coordination in developing a shared understanding of mental health, young people’s needs, and the best ways to support them.

In partnership with: