Psychology in schools

The current context

  • Most Clinical psychologists working with young people and families are based in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
  • Unfortunately, due to continuing economic constraints, CAMHS are often unable to provide much needed support to young people and families.

“Head teachers at more than half of schools in England believe the CAMHS referral system is not working for their pupils”.

(CentreForum Mental Health Commission, 2016)

  • Without appropriate support, psychological difficulties are likely to worsen and significantly impact the young person’s ability to engage with education.

“Schools and young people are often let down and left to fend for themselves”.

(Paul Burstow, Chair of the Mental Health Commission, 2016)

  • Often the difficulties faced by young people in school settings are linked to chaotic home lives and family difficulties.
  • Clinical psychologists can help develop strategies that help young people cope better at home and school. They can also help school staff and families gain a better understanding of the difficulties and make changes that will help.

“Schools are well placed for early intervention and a specialist psychologist should be on site at least once a week”.

(The Institute for Public Policy Research Report, 2016)

The advantages of working in schools

  • Schools are often placed within the heart of the community and offer an excellent setting for the provision of psychology services.

“Early intervention is crucial in tackling mental health problems, which is why school leaders have a major role to play.”

  • Attending appointments is more convenient for families and there is often less stigma associated with accessing support through a school compared to CAMHS.
  • All these factors are likely to encourage engagement and improve outcomes.

Why a clinical psychologist?

  • The problems that impact a young person’s ability to learn and function in school typically stem from outside of the school environment.
  • These young people may have received all of the interventions offered by a school but with little success due to the complexity of the difficulties and the lack of access to specialist services.
  • Clinical Psychologists have the specialist training, knowledge and experience to help these young people.

“On average, three children in every classroom experience mental health difficulties. Schools cannot be expected to do it all”.

(Paul Burstow, Chair of the Mental Health Commission, 2016)

They provide evidence based assessments and interventions to individuals, parents/carers, families, small groups and staff. The following are examples of the types of difficulties that Clinical Psychologists will often work with:

Challenging behaviour

Learning difficulties

Managing emotions

Attachment difficulties

Depression and anxiety

Relationship problems

Bereavement and loss

Eating difficulties

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder


Psychological difficulties associated with physical health problems

Teaching is without doubt a stressful and challenging profession. Schools are under increasing pressure to support young people experiencing psychological difficulties. Despite the excellent pastoral care already in schools, this is an overwhelming task.

“Some teachers report feeling frightened and overwhelmed by pressures to support troubled pupils who do not meet the threshold for NHS care”.

(The Institute for Public Policy Research Report, 2016)

All written reports produced by Great Oaks include recommendations for school staff, other professionals, parents/carers and families. The progress and outcome of all work is assessed using routine outcome measures, providing you with evidence for Ofsted, Governors and other key stakeholders on the efficacy of the work.

Interested in reading more?

Head teacher’s give warning over pupil’s mental health

Schools feel unsupported by mental health services

Call for on-site psychologists in all secondary schools