New SQA awards aim to improve young people’s understanding of Mental Health

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) has announced that it is developing new awards that will aim to improve young people’s understanding of mental health and wellbeing.

New National Progression Awards in Mental Health and Wellbeing are being developed at level 4 and level 5 on the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework, and will cover introductory topics including; Understanding Mental Health Issues, Influences on Mental Health and Wellbeing, and Coping Strategies. The new qualifications will be available in time for schools, colleges, and training providers to start delivering it in the new academic year.

Lesley Joyce, Head of Humanities, Care, and Services Qualifications at SQA said: “The positive feedback we have received so far during the development of these new qualifications is unprecedented, and a clear demonstration of the interest young people have in these awards. The new awards will include discussion around mental health; helping young people to explore and understand the distinction between the wide-range of normal emotional responses and potential mental health problems; and developing positive coping strategies.”

The new awards have been developed in conjunction with a number of sector specialists, including representatives from The Good Shepherd Centre in Bishopton.

Anne McKechnie, Consultant Clinical and Forensic Psychologist at the Good Shepherd Centre, who first proposed the idea of a new qualification to SQA, said: “There is often a stigma attached to mental health which frequently stops children, young people, and many adults from seeking help. We hope that these new awards will help people to realise that it’s important to talk about how they are feeling, how to recognise potential problems in themselves and in others, and how they can find help when they need it.”

Elaine McFadyen, Qualifications Manager at SQA, who is leading the development team, was keen to hear first-hand from students, and schools, colleges and training providers interested in the award. Uniquely potential candidates have also made a significant contribution to the design and content of the award. 

Elaine said: “We opened up a survey to try and gauge what content the award should cover. We received over 1,700 responses, almost a thousand of which were from young people aged under 18!

“Many of the submissions came from young people who had experienced mental health issues themselves, or knew of friends and family who had similar experiences. The feedback we received often said the qualification would be a good way of informing others at school – both teachers and pupils – about the challenges people with mental health problems face.  Another submission, from a serving police officer, recognised the potential in the award as a way to increase police officers’ understanding of mental health issues.

Elaine continued: “The views that we received were incredibly valuable, and confirmed to us that the demand for the award was sufficient to take it forward and that it would be well received.  Combining that insight, with the expertise of organisations such as The Good Shepherd Centre and the NHS has put us in a strong position to offer a qualification that will be valuable and well regarded.”

Jo Anderson, Director of External Affairs at SAMH said: “We’re extremely proud to have been the charity partner of SQA over the last year and welcome their work on mental health. In particular this new award which young people have helped to shape in content and design, helping us to better understand what can influence our mental health and wellbeing and most importantly how to start our mental health conversation.”

Gill Stewart, Director of Qualifications Development at SQA, said: “The Scottish Government has stated in its ten-year Mental Health Strategy that it wants to improve prevention and early intervention regarding young people’s mental health. 

“Our new award will contribute to this strategy, and together with our newly launched Higher National Diploma in Counselling, demonstrates SQA’s commitment to improving the provision of mental health qualifications in Scotland.”

Schools, colleges and training providers interested in delivering the new awards should contact SQA on 0303 333 0330, or visit