The pilot service will include all primary schools, special schools with a primary cohort and primary EOTAS provision and will run until the end of March 2022.
Speaking at the launch event in Brooklands Primary School, Michelle McIlveen said: “I welcome today’s launch of the Healthy Happy Minds £5million therapeutic & counselling service. Crucially it will allow pupils in all primary schools to participate in therapeutic & counselling services until the end of March 2022.
“The Healthy Happy Minds pilot is one of a range of measures supporting the implementation of the ‘Children and Young People’s Emotional Health and Wellbeing in Education Framework’, providing support to primary school pupils with an aim to prevent and reduce mental health issues.
“When we consider that 50% of mental health problems are established by the age of 14, the importance of promoting emotional health and wellbeing at the earliest stage is clear.”
Schools will receive allocations directly, 50% immediately and 50% in January 2022, to secure appropriate support for their children.
The Minister continued: “Alongside counselling, the Healthy Happy Minds pilot provides opportunity for a broad range of therapeutic interventions to be tested at primary school level including play, drama, music, art and equine assisted therapy & learning.
“Transitional arrangements will also operate beyond the end of March 2022 to ensure that no child engaging with counselling/therapeutic services is left unsupported.”
The Healthy Happy Minds pilot will be subject to an independent evaluation to determine the appropriateness of these interventions for primary schools going forward.