Children and Young People's Mental Health Trailblazer programme

This project is evaluating the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Trailblazer programme, a national programme funding the creation of mental health support teams working in schools and further education colleges. The aim of the programme is to improve early intervention and access to support, and promote good mental health and wellbeing for all children and young people.

This short animation below has been produced in partnership with members of the Institute for Mental Health Youth Advisory Group. It shares the findings from the BRACE evaluation of mental health support teams in schools and colleges. 

Download the NIHR final report (PDF)

View a video summary of the programme findings


The Department for Education, Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England and Improvement have selected areas across England to test out new ways of supporting children and young people with their mental health and wellbeing. The new approaches are based in schools and further education colleges, and the aim is that they will help to prevent children developing mental health problems or mean that children who do have mental health problems are identified and supported earlier. They include having a named person who will lead the school or college’s approach to mental health and wellbeing, and creating mental health support teams. These teams will work directly with schools and colleges to help children with ‘mild to moderate’ mental health problems and support school staff to develop a ‘whole school approach’ to mental health. This national programme started in 2018 and will run until 2023. The first wave of areas testing out the new approaches are called ‘Trailblazers’ (Find out details of the areas involved in the programme).

In collaboration with the Policy Innovation and Evaluation Research Unit BRACE is carrying out an early evaluation of this programme, focusing on the Trailblazer areas.


The evaluation is organised into three work-streams:

  1. Understanding the starting points and progress made across the 25 trailblazers areas. This involves analysis of programme monitoring and other routine data, and surveys and telephone interviews with key local stakeholders and organisations, which will be undertaken in late 2020 and again in late 2021. 
  2. In-depth research in six case study trailblazer areas. Six trailblazer areas will be selected to take part in more detailed research. This work will include interviews with a range of people involved in the design and delivery of the new approaches and services in their area, such as staff members of the new mental health support teams, school staff and professionals working in NHS children and young people’s mental health services. It will also include focus groups with children and young people.
  3. Assessing the feasibility and considering options for the design of a longer-term impact evaluation. Preliminary scoping work will be undertaken to explore and assess potential design options for a longer-term evaluation of the programme’s outcomes and impacts. This will include reviewing evaluations of similar, previous programmes to find out what data they collected, how these data were collected, and what (if any) barriers they faced as well as assessing the quality, completeness, relevance and likely future availability of the routine data.

Working with children and young people

From the outset of the project, the evaluation team has been working in collaboration with University of Birmingham Institute for Mental Health’s Youth Advisory Group. In particular, the Youth Advisory Group is co-designing the recruitment and consent process/materials, and research tools, for the focus groups with children and young people.

How we will store, process and manage your personal data (PDF)

Project team

  • Jo Ellins (Principal Investigator – contact person)
  • Kelly Singh (Project Manager)
  • Sarah-Jane Fenton
  • Gemma McKenna
  • Jenny Newbould
  • Lucy Hocking
  • Jenny Bousfield
  • Stephanie Stockwell
  • Katie Saunders
  • Nicholas Mays (PIRU)
  • Mustafa Al-Haboubi (PIRU) 
  • Richard Grieve (PIRU)


Read Dr Jo Ellin's piece on the findings of the study in The Conversation, April 2024 on More mental health support in schools makes sense - but some children may fall through the gaps

Final report January 2023

National Institute for Health Research Services and Delivery Research stream (NIHR HSDR) Rapid Evaluation Centre Report: Early evaluation of the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Trailblazer programme: a rapid mixed-methods study; Jo Ellins, Lucy Hocking, Mustafa Al-Haboubi, Jenny Newbould, Sarah-Jane Fenton, Kelly Daniel, Stephanie Stockwell, Brandi Leach, Manbinder Sidhu, Jenny Bousfield, Gemma McKenna, Katie Saunders, Stephen O’Neill, Nicholas Mays; June 2023

A blog on The Power to Persuade, May 2023 details Findings from the early evaluation of the UK Children and Young People's Mental Health Trailblazer programme — Power to Persuade

Initial findings July 2021

To learn more about our findings to date, read our interim evaluation report or a shorter summary version

An easy to view infographic depicts these interim findings and a second infographic summarises what the interim findings means for schools and colleges

There is also a technical appendix that accompanies the interim report

Early insights from the national evaluation of the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Trailblazer Programme were presented at the HSR UK Conference, July 2021 

The HSR UK Conference in July 2022 featured a recorded presentation on Educational Mental Health Practitioners (EMHP) - Embedding a new health workforce within education


We will also:

  • Present at conferences, seminars and other events
  • Publish our findings in academic journals
  • Produce short summaries of our findings, including a summary for children and young people who are interested in knowing more about the project and what we found
  • Publish blogs on the BRACE and PIRU websites
  • Using social media, for example, Twitter

Project Duration

October 2019- March 2022