Pioneering school mental health scheme comes to Barking & Dagenham


Children in one of the most deprived parts of London will get ‘life-changing’ mental health support thanks to a pioneering scheme launching in 11 schools.

The project, run by children’s mental health charity Place2Be, will see a full-time mental health practitioner embedded in Marsh Green Primary School, in Dagenham, and Rush Green Primary School, in Romford.

Children from two schools will benefit from Place2Be’s ‘whole school’ approach to mental health, which supports children, teachers and families through one-to-one counselling, group sessions and a drop-in service

Meanwhile, nine other borough schools will be able to access the charity’s Journey of Hope group work programme.

The charity has seen a surge in the number and severity of cases post-pandemic including, shockingly, children as young as five self-harming and having suicidal thoughts.

It says the project, funded through a £135,980 grant from City Bridge Foundation – London’s biggest independent charity funder – can transform children’s life prospects.

Eric Haines, Place2Be’s Regional Director for London and South, said:

“What we do impacts on the whole school community – not just the children but their parents, the staff and senior leaders.

“We’re trying to shift the stigma around mental health and to create a culture where children feel able to talk openly about their mental health.

“We deal on a daily basis with children dealing with serious mental health issues and give them support they don’t get anywhere else – it can be massively life-changing for the children and their families.”

According to a report by Pro-Bono Economics, every pound spent on Place2Be’s one-to-one counselling service in schools returns an economic benefit to society of £8 as it increases a child’s likelihood of success in education and employment.

Natalie Sanchez, headteacher at Marsh Green Primary School, said:

“We are really looking forward to welcoming Place2Be into our school. Being able to offer targeted and specialist mental health support to our pupils, parents and staff is going to be invaluable to our whole school community.

“We have an increasing number of children who require this level of support and without the funding provided by Place2be this would not be possible. We are hoping our pupils will develop positive life-long skills and behaviours which will serve them well into the future.”

As well as working for two days a week each at Marsh Green and Rush Green, the Place2Be Mental Health Practitioners will run the charity’s Journey of Hope programme in nine other schools, with the aim of developing children’s resilience and self-confidence.

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