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Senior Mental Health Leadership – Advanced Award30 creditsMaster of EducationOnlineValidated by Middlesex University

Our Senior Mental Health Lead Advanced Award will challenge you to deepen your understanding of the role of Senior Mental Health Lead and bring about transformational change in your setting. You will use educational and psychological expertise and frameworks to extend your leadership and affect authentic and lasting impact.

You will learn how to use implementation science and systems thinking confidently, analyse mental health provision in your setting, and create an ambitious plan for strategic change, in collaboration with local stakeholders. Over at least two terms, you will implement the plan with the support of your Tutor Coach, Senior Mental Health Lead peers on the course and a Colleague Working Group in your school / college.

This module is one of the core / recommended modules on our Masters in Pastoral Care, but when combined with other modules can also be completed as part of one of our other Masters programmes: AutismEducational AssessmentSEND and Inclusion Programme or Inclusive Educational Leadership Programme.

Why take this course?

Choose this course and:

  • Consolidate a positive, values-based approach, openness and normalisation of mental health including around staff wellbeing
  • Apply your leadership skills to enact positive, lasting change at the whole school / college level
  • Access a range of tools and strategies to promote mental health and wellbeing
  • Improve stakeholder engagement, including with parents, CYP, external services
  • Develop a coherent working package of effective policies
  • Effectively use of data to plan interventions and monitor change effectively

Cohorts begin in January, May, or September.

How will you benefit?

This module will benefit you and your setting in a wide variety of ways. Over the duration of the course, you will:

  • Develop your understanding of the context, complexity and interactional nature of SEMH, including relevant theory applied to practice
  • Draw on a range of leadership styles to hold the SMHL role with confidence and success
  • Conceptualise and map your setting’s risk and resiliency factors, leading to action planning. Set up systems to engage stakeholder groups, including enabling student and carer voice
  • Implement impactful plans and actions
  • Deliver improved wellbeing for all students, including those with identified needs
  • Have a greater whole school understanding on discrimination

The course content

  • The leadership element of the SMHL role, including active reflection on personal leadership ideas, style and goals.
  • The context of the SMHL role, and be introduced to tools and ideas linked to whole school approaches, including activities focused on organisational change and implementation science.
  • Explore ways of thinking about SEMH using key psychological and educational frameworks, and up-to-date research.
  • Familiarisation with Public Health England’s eight principles, and a risk and resilience framework alongside carefully selected case studies.
  • Audit and critically review their SEMH provision in a structured way, including consideration of discrimination and staff wellbeing.
  • Creation of a Strategic Portfolio – a working planning document enabling delegates to embed sustainable systemic change in their settings.

How will you be assessed?

Through completion of the assignments, you will collate evidence related to your role to help determine an action plan of next steps and help create your own mental health resource bank to assist with staff training. There will be 5 assignments to complete

Reading Critically. This is a short written piece (around 500-1000 words) critically analysing Meins’ article on attachment.

Database of good practice. This is a practical, live document that details interventions and resources of relevance to your setting. It can be presented as a working spreadsheet / Word document.

Training Pack OR 3000 word essay. The training pack involves preparation of two Powerpoints / sets of engaging training materials that you can use with staff in your school / college. The essay is 3000 words and the title is How do SEMH policy and theory inform whole school / college approaches to SEMH support, including practice in your own setting.

SEMH Audit / Review Portfolio – A document summarising current SEMH provision in the setting, plus a Force Field Analysis (FFA) (1,000 words) and 500 word summary of the process and findings.

SEMH Strategic Portfolio. A portfolio of planning documents, which includes:

  • The SEMH Action Plan – an action plan for leading change in the setting. (500 – 750 words)
  • A Project Overview: a 500 word summary of the planning process, including a ‘birds eye view’ flowchart or similar, mapping the project from audit to strategic plan.
  • My Reflections (250-500 words) on how the process of auditing and planning has been so far, and on how to sustain their learning and peer support beyond the course.

How is the course delivered?

  • Our courses are delivered through Campus Online, our unique provision for online learning.
  • Campus Online allows you to study at your own pace, without the need to travel, or commit to particular dates or times. Log in to access your study materials, contact your personal tutor for support, connect and network with other delegates and make use of the extensive resource library.
  • You can easily track your progress throughout the course and submit your work and evidence of assignments for feedback.

Included within the course is around six hours of tutoring and coaching from your Tutor Coach, who supports you on your journey as a leader, and provides tutoring and coaching around the five key assignments. This time often works best as flexibly delivered asynchronous communication and support using our model of supported professional development.

Are you eligible?

The Senior Mental Health Leadership – Advanced Award is aimed at SMHLs familiar with the role, intermediate practitioners and leaders that are looking to develop their skills with mental health practice. Delegates should be in a position where they are already leading on mental health in their setting, or due to step into such a role imminently. On this course, you will embed learning through practice in your setting, so will need the support of the Headteacher/Head of Centre

You will also need to have an undergraduate degree to enrol on this course.

Are you new to or aspiring to the Senior Mental Health Leadership (SMHL) role? Our Senior Mental Health Lead Certificate course may be a better fit. We also have general SMHL training guidance available.

Looking for a short online SEMH course for your staff? You may be interested in our Level 5 Emotionally Connected Classroom course offered by our sister company Dyslexia Action. The course offers high-quality CPD, is delivered online, requires 30 hours of study over a seven week period and runs four times a year. Please note DfE funding cannot be used for the cost of this course.

How much does it cost?

The Senior Mental Health Leadership – Advanced Award course costs £1,495 plus VAT. 

Grant funding may be available if you work in a school or college in England. View the latest information about grant funding. We also have a guide to applying for funding. Eligible schools and colleges must apply for a senior mental health lead training grant and be available to begin training on or before 31 March 2025.


We can confirm that this course has achieved quality-assured status from the DfE, and will be eligible for grant funding according to the process outlined by the DfE.


Senior Mental Health Leadership – Advanced Award
DfE course reference number:


If you do not receive an email, you can contact the DfE on MentalHealth.LeadTraining@education.gov.uk. Grant payments are then made once the evidence has been reviewed and approved.


To ensure grants do not go unclaimed, grants will be released to applicants on the waiting list if you do not complete this final stage of your application within 3 weeks from being asked to do so.


The grant funding amount is up to £1,200 per setting. You can still book a place on the course if you work in an international school or setting, which is not eligible for grant funding, assuming you meet the eligibility criteria and your school funds the cost of the course.


For further information please visit our payment FAQ page.


Speak to us on +44(0)1273 358080 or make a booking.



When does the course start?

Cohorts begin in January, May, or September. The next cohort begins on 15 September 2024. Book and enrol before 15 September 2024 to join our next cohort.

Our Advanced Award cohorts are eligible for DfE Funding! View the latest information about grant funding.


Please note: as it takes time to process your application and payment, we strongly recommend that you register as soon as possible so that you don’t miss the next intake.

How long does it take to complete the course?

The duration of the Senior Mental Health Leadership – Advanced Award course is up to one year and equates to 300 hours of study.

We do understand, however, that circumstances can arise that could prevent the course from being completed in this time period. If this is the case, an extension can be arranged in conjunction with the admin team and your tutor coach.

Many of the approved courses offered by other providers are short courses, to be completed by the end of the academic year. At Real Training, we believe that learning should be practice-led and completed over a longer period to ensure long-term retention and maximum impact. Therefore you can take up to 12 months to complete our Senior Mental Health Leadership Advanced Award and you will be making a difference in your setting straight away. We are happy to confirm that the DfE has approved this course duration.

The Deep Dive - Course Feedback

We recently submitted our Senior Mental Health Lead Advanced Award to the DfE for a ‘deep-dive’ – an opportunity for our course to be rigorously reviewed to ensure that it meets the required learning outcomes and provide schools and colleges with high quality training.

Of our course, the assessor commented:
“The course offers a diverse array of effective methods and models designed to empower Senior Mental Health Leads in planning, implementing, and sustaining strategic change. It is structured to actively involve learners in these strategic processes, facilitating a comprehensive understanding. Learners are provided with opportunities to undergo a 360-degree review with a trusted colleague and engage in meaningful discourse with the course tutor regarding the practicalities of implementation within their specific contexts.”

Meet Our Course Leader – Joanna Wood

Joanna Wood - What leaders can do to maintain motivation during lockdownDr Joanna Wood is the course leader on the Senior Mental Health Leadership Advanced Award course for Senior Mental Health Leads who are familiar with the role and/or those leaders who wish to further their skills with mental health practice in their provision. Jo began her career as a Secondary school Science teacher, progressing to leadership and coordination roles within school settings, before starting her career as an Educational Psychologist, giving her comprehensive insight into the demands, challenges and wonders of a school professional. Working as an EP has included; training Emotional Literacy Support Assistants; providing psychological advice and support to a Virtual School, special and mainstream provision; being a Video Interactive Guidance guider. Jo’s doctoral thesis was on supervision support groups for school staff. She is able to apply psychological knowledge of SEMH needs to individual, school and family contexts, and translate those needs into practical actions within systems. Jo has worked on change at individual, group and systemic whole-school levels, and her publication successes, include but are not limited to:

  • “Moving Forwards Programme” intervention for survivors of Child Sexual Exploitation, with Jody Walshe (2017)
  • “The Well Being Toolkit for Teens Resource Pack” contribution (published by Nurture UK)
  • “The Wellbeing Toolkit for Mental Health Leads” with Tina Rae and Amy Such (publisher Hinton House, 2020)

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