Derby is first city to have mental health leader in every school

10 May 2021

Derby has become the first city in the country to have a Designated Senior Leader for Mental Health in every school, thanks to a programme which aims to deliver a ‘whole school’ approach to emotional health and wellbeing.

The Emotionally Healthy Schools programme, led by Redwood Primary School in Sinfin and funded by the Derby Opportunity Area, was launched to create a Mental Health Local Offer that brings all sources of support and information into one place for schools.

All 107 schools in Derby have now completed DSLMH training, provided by Carnegie School of Education at Leeds Beckett University, and 76 have gone on to achieve, the Mental Health Award for Schools, which provides a framework for educational institutions to evidence initiatives that work towards improving emotional health and wellbeing for both staff and pupils.

A placement scheme has also been set up at the University of Derby, to enable students studying programmes within the College of Health, Psychology and Social Care to provide creative therapies and additional support to teachers and pupils, working towards the award.

Speaking about the programme, Jane Calladine, Executive Head of Redwood Primary School who led the project, said: “Research shows that poor mental health can have a long term impact on a child’s well-being. Schools in Derby needed to know how to access the right support and expertise and Redwood was delighted to be asked to lead the Opportunity Area Emotionally Healthy Schools programme to address this, by training and supporting leaders.

“We now have a great Mental Health leader in every school in the city, which means that whether primary or secondary, special, academy, Local Authority or faith, every single school has a trained leader. Derby’s school leaders have great action plans in place to ensure their schools keep on improving their practice, and to further support this there is also a website to find resources and signposts to other services, as well as to share knowledge and expertise.”

Professor Kathryn Mitchell DL, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Derby and Chair of the Derby Opportunity Area Partnership Board, added: “A key priority for the Derby Opportunity Area is to broaden horizons to help young people grow in confidence, expand their understanding of the wider world, and develop both their career aspirations and ability to realise them.

“The Emotionally Healthy Schools programme has provided vital support to schools, improved mental health for staff and students, and helped remove any barriers to learning that this can cause. I am also delighted that our students at the University of Derby were given the opportunity to work closely with the schools involved and benefit from this real-world learning.”

Research shows that up to 10% of pupils aged 5-15 years’ experience mental health issues at some point in their life. Prior to undertaking the training, only 38% of staff in Derby schools said they felt knowledgeable about the various mental health services that are available for children and young people in Derby, but following the training, that has risen to 73%.

Chrissie Sargent, Designated Senior Leader for Mental Health at Noel Baker Academy, added: “Being a part of the Emotionally Healthy Schools programme has been a valuable experience, one that has allowed us as a school to lay solid foundations in which to support our students and staff effectively.

“We believe our school community are entitled to the best breadth and depth of provision. Working collaboratively within the Emotionally Healthy Schools network has given us the support to drive forward with our vision, allowing our students the opportunity to be the best they can be.”

Derby Opportunity Area is continuing to support mental health this academic year, as part of a wider piece on inclusion, led by Derby County Community Trust. The project is streamlining a number of previous Opportunity Area funded programmes (SEND, Targeted Student Support, Family Engagement, and Exclusions), taking forward key successful elements in order to build on the successes so far and support the post-COVID recovery for schools, especially for the most vulnerable.

To find out more about the Emotionally Healthy Schools programme, visit