William Eichler 03 February 2020

Number of schools commissioning mental health support ‘doubles’

The number of schools commissioning professional help for children’s mental health issues has almost doubled in the last four years, a survey has revealed.

A poll of school leaders has revealed that 36% of schools in England provided school-based support for students’ emotional and mental wellbeing in 2016. By 2019, this had increased to 66%.

Published today by school leaders’ union NAHT and children’s mental health charity Place2Be, the survey found that 74% of school leaders said the majority of their staff are confident at recognising the signs of mental health problems among children and young people. This is up from 61% in 2017.

Just 4% of school leaders agreed that Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) responds quickly to requests for support. Just 5% agreed that children referred to CAMHS get help when they need it.

Around 66% of school leaders said their school commissioned external professional support for children and young people’s mental health issues in school. This was 36% in 2016.

‘We know that early intervention is absolutely key when it comes to mental health and wellbeing,’ said Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT.

‘We can see that schools are responding to an increasing need and a lack of capacity in specialist services by commissioning their own support such as counsellors.

‘Although to be applauded, this is another area where schools are being forced to use scant resources for urgent provision that is not provided for in their budgets.

‘There is still concern that when children do have more serious mental health needs professional help is not easily available. Teachers are on the frontline for children’s mental health, but they are not qualified medical specialists.

‘Where schools consider that a pupil’s needs go beyond their experience and expertise, their role is to refer those pupils to other professionals to address those needs, and they should be able to expect timely and effective support.’

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