E-training course helps teachers to support children with mental health issues – benefitting 9,000 students in 215 special schools.


  • An e-training resource developed through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership has been delivered to 215 special schools in England and Wales, reaching 2,248 staff to date and benefitting 9,000 students.
  • The training resource has increased awareness nationally (including with policymakers) of the importance of mental health in special education needs.
  • Income from sales of the resource to local authority schools has helped the National Association of Independent Schools and Non-Maintained Special Schools (NASS) expand their charitable activities.
  • The training package has been sold to 98 maintained schools outside NASS, with sales enquiries coming from as far afield as Australia.
  • The response from schools has been very enthusiastic, saying that it has made a real difference to their practice - allowing teachers to provide better help for children with complex special educational needs.

Working through this training really helped me to understand the pupils I support. I now feel more confident and able to respond to their mental health needs. (NASS teacher)

About the research

The National Association of Independent Schools and Non-Maintained Special Schools (NASS) is a membership organisation that works with special schools that fall outside local authority control. NASS member schools had reported that they were struggling to manage the increasing mental health needs of their students. Many of the children have severe communication difficulties and underlying mental health problems, but the extent of teachers’ knowledge of mental health issues was varied, and there was no set procedure in place to help staff identify pupils’ mental health needs.

The association enlisted the help of researchers at the Centre for Education and Research at the University of Northampton, and the two organisations entered an ESRC-funded Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) to develop training resources for staff in special needs schools, helping them to understand the mental health of children with complex needs.

The researchers developed a training e-resource that can take staff through a systematic process of observation, monitoring and reflection - from a general feeling that a child may have mental health issues to a position where concerns can be shared and interventions put in place.

The resource has been shared with all the independent schools that are members of NASS, and is being sold to local authority special and mainstream schools. The generated income is helping the association to expand its activities.