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Over Half Of Schools Struggling To Get Mental Health Support For Pupils

More than a fifth of teachers who sought help for students were unsuccessful

  • Over Half Of Schools Struggling To Get Mental Health Support For Pupils

More than half (56%) of school leaders say it is difficult to find mental health services for pupils, and more than one in five (22%) who attempt to find support are unsuccessful.

That’s according to new research published by children’s mental health charity Place2Be and school leaders’ union NAHT as part of Children’s Mental Health Week (6-12 February).

The research, based on responses from 1,115 school leaders across England and Wales, provides a picture of the challenges faced by schools with 93% saying that pupils bring more worries into school than they did five years ago.

“School leaders have told us that the most common barriers to finding support are lack of capacity in services (36%), no local services (31%) and budget constraints (28%),” says . “Whilst many school leaders recognise that they need external mental health support for their pupils, our survey highlights that they often struggle to know where and how to get it.”

These statistics also varied by region, with 37% of school leaders in London having difficulties finding mental health services for pupils compared to 66-67% of those in the West Midlands and South West.

“We would like to see the government ring-fencing funding for all schools across the country to invest in their young people’s mental health, so they can all can provide high-quality mental health support for their pupils. We also need to see a clear government policy commitment to enhancing children and young people’s emotional wellbeing – with the Education and Health Services working closely together.”

In primary schools, almost all school leaders (97%) felt that people underestimate the level of mental health problems amongst pupils. And while 95% of primary school leaders feel their teachers already go ‘above and beyond’ to support their pupils’ wellbeing, only two in five (39%) feel confident that their staff would know how to respond if a pupil had a mental health crisis.

“Evidence shows that early intervention and making support accessible to children from a young age can have a major positive impact on their wellbeing and engagement in learning,” says .

“The First Aid mental health training being proposed for secondary schools is an important step in the right direction. However, it is vital that mental health support in equally prioritised in primary schools. With half of all mental health problems starting before the age of 14, intervening early is crucial if we are to help build resilient adults of tomorrow. This includes training for teachers and staff, support for parents and the provision of accessible on-site mental health services for all pupils.”

So while Theresa May recently announced measures to introduce mental health training for secondary teachers, primary staff will still be left to fend for themselves.

The results highlight the pressure on teachers, and the pressing need to ensure schools have access to the right professionals, resources and training so that pupils can get the help they need.

“In classrooms up and down the country, we know teachers are working incredibly hard to support the emotional needs of their pupils,” says Catherine Roche, CEO of Place2Be. “They know when something is wrong, but it can be difficult to know how best to help, especially when there are no mental health professionals to whom they can turn.

“Place2Be strongly believes in the power of early intervention. Our evidence shows that making support accessible to children from a young age can have a hugely beneficial impact on their wellbeing, and also reduces the burden on teachers so they can focus on learning. Both primary and secondary schools need to be able to access this support.”

“Just as we are becoming more aware of children’s mental health issues the resources are being taken away,” says NAHT general secretary, Russell Hobby. “School budgets are being cut by £3bn, so it will become increasingly difficult to fund in-school care for children unless these cuts are reversed immediately. This problem is exacerbated when the school seeks to access help itself, because of the chaos in the health and social care system.”

“Schools have always been on the frontline with children’s mental health because school is often where issues first become apparent,” James Bowen, director of middle leaders’ union NAHT Edge. “It’s also often a parent’s first port of call if they are looking for support. While we have a better acknowledgement of the extent of mental illness amongst children and young people than ever before, the services that schools, families and children rely on are under great pressure. Rising demand, growing complexity and tight budgets are getting in the way of helping the children who need it most.”

Other key results of the survey include:
• 61% of school leaders were confident that the majority of their staff could recognise the signs of mental health problems for children and young people

• 95% worry about stress levels among their staff

• 92% say teaching staff have to manage issues for pupils that go beyond their professional role

• 40% worry about retaining staff because concerns about pupils’ wellbeing put them under strain

Download a summary of the keys statistics from the report here at ChildrensMentalHealthWeek.org.

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