The staff from Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, the community and mental health provider, have been advising teachers how to identify and help youngsters who are experiencing emotional difficulties.
Costing £150,000, which has been funded by Peterborough City Council, the Project For Schools Team is made up of three community psychiatric nurses who are available to all 70 primary schools in Peterborough.
Lorraine Cuff, team manager with CPFT s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, said: We believe this has been a major step forward in helping young people with mental health issues. Until now we have treated youngsters who have been referred to us by their GPs or other health professionals. However, by working in schools and linking closely with teachers, we can make earlier interventions and we know that is vital in helping prevent childhood mental health difficulties becoming life-long problems.
The rise in the numbers of young people struggling with mental ill-health is a national issue, and not just one which is confined to Peterborough, but the introduction of the team means they can help schools take positive action.
Teachers and support staff can call a special telephone hotline if they become concerned at pupil s emotional wellbeing. As well as visiting schools, the team have produced a wide range of specialist information packs, and a training course has been developed to raise awareness of issues such as autism, ADHD and anxiety.
Carol Evans, community psychiatric nurse for the Project For Schools team, which was launched in March, said: Teachers are very positive about the project and we ve had really good feedback.
It s satisfying to know that we re helping children to get recognition for the difficulties they face and that our support to the teachers is being used and valued.
Carrie Gamble, commissioner in Peterborough City Council’s People and Communities Directorate, said: This funding has supported a pioneering scheme that has been well received by teachers and support staff in Peterborough s schools.
Children and young people spend a lot of time within the school environment and their teachers are well placed to spot any signs that they may be struggling with emotional or mental health problems. The innovative Project For Schools scheme offers teachers an avenue to discuss any concerns they may have and ask for advice. We look forward to seeing the scheme continue to progress.
Figures from the Mental Health Foundation show that 50 per cent of mental health conditions are established by the age of 14. Ten per cent of children aged five to 16-years-old have a clinically diagnosable mental illness, yet 70 per of children do not have appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age.
The National Association of Head Teachers has previously called for more work to be done in schools to help children with untreated mental health conditions.
The team s work has been praised by the Royal College of Nursing.
Karen Webb, eastern regional director for the RCN, said: Initiatives like this demonstrate the innovative and inspirational approach taken by nurses who are constantly striving to improve the experience of their patients. Across the eastern region we are aware of many more cases of nurses leading innovations in their workplaces which will leave a long-lasting legacy of better care and excellent service.