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Research round-up 16 February 2018

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Providing mental health support in UK schools

This report from Place2Be (in partnership with the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP), the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) and NAHT) provides a clear view of the challenges and opportunities facing both schools and mental health professionals in the UK today.

Key findings

Counsellors and psychotherapists

  • 88% of respondents had worked with schools, either currently (64%) or in the past (24%).
  • 34% of those who had worked in schools (either currently or in the past) said it was difficult or very difficult to provide a counselling or psychotherapy service to schools.
  • In addition to a lack of funds to pay for the service (61%), the most commonly cited barrier was schools’ understanding of counselling and psychotherapy for children (57%), followed by expectations not being clear (30%).
  • The majority of counsellors and psychotherapists providing therapeutic support in schools work ‘part time’ - 75% work less than 20 hours per week, but 64% would like to do more - on average 8 hours extra per week.

School leaders

    • 37% of respondents don’t feel confident in commissioning a counsellor or therapist.
    • 45% found it ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ to commission a service.
    • 44% say ‘knowing what type of support is needed’ is a barrier to providing mental health support for pupils.
    • Most commonly, schools rely on word of mouth to find a counsellor or therapist (45%), followed by Local Authority or Multi Academy Trust lists (35%), and Counselling / Psychotherapy professional body lists (26%).
    • Schools felt the most important factors to consider when commissioning a counsellor or therapist were experience of working with children and young people (90%), professional body membership or affiliation (76%), and experience of working in a school environment (75%).

About the data

The report was informed by responses to two surveys:

  • The survey for counsellors and psychotherapists working with children ran from 6 – 20 December 2017 and received 1,198 responses. It was sent to all UKCP members and BACP members who work with children and young people. It was also listed on the BACP website.
  • The survey for school leaders ran from 27 September – 13 October 2017. It was open to both NAHT members and non-members, with a total of 655 individuals responding to the survey.

Educational Outcomes of Children with English as an Additional Language

This report from the EPI is a comprehensive analysis of the current policy and funding regime available to support children with English as an additional language (EAL). 

Key findings

  • The most potentially damaging feature of EAL policy in England is the absence of any national oversight or provision of professional qualifications, staff development and specialist roles for teachers and other school staff working with children with EAL.
  • In 2016, EAL pupils had an identical Attainment 8 score to the national average, made greater than average progress during school, and were more likely to achieve the English Baccalaureate than those with English as a first language (28 percent versus 24 percent).
  • The EAL group is extremely heterogeneous; key dimensions by which children vary include their level of English proficiency, the age at which they arrived in the English school system, their first language, and their prior educational and life experiences.
  • Measurements of attainment by children with EAL are misleading because assessments undertaken before English proficiency is reached will under-estimate academic attainment; attainment is mediated by the child’s English proficiency at the time of the test.
  • In 2016, the Department for Education began collecting a new teacher-assessed measure of English proficiency for pupils with EAL. Schools are asked to position each child on a five-point scale according to a judgement of ‘best fit’ with briefly described categories: New to English, Early Acquisition, Developing competence, Competent, or Fluent. The new proficiency assessments are not moderated and the official guidance is superficial compared with other international countries.
  • There has been a much broader trend for LAs to reduce or cease funding to central EAL support services. The number of LAs with no central EAL spending has increased from 39 to 72 since 2011-12.
  • The report established what the National Funding Formula, means for pupils with EAL. In practice, local authorities can vary the formula allocations within certain constraints during a transitional period, but our analysis identifies the direction of travel implied by the overall workings of the formula and compares this with the baseline funding received in 2017-18.


  • The DfE should establish a plan for the future of English proficiency assessment.
  • In addition to the basic EAL premium in the national funding formula, a late arrival premium is needed.
  • Additional eligible years of less intensive EAL funding (extending its duration) are needed.
  • Better official data and analysis on the EAL population is needed to ensure that policies are adequate, appropriate, targeted and relevant.
  • Better official statistics that acknowledge the widespread of attainment outcomes for children with EAL are needed to inform policy discussions.
  • The government should develop new policies to generate and maintain EAL expertise in schools.


Literacy and life expectancy

 This report (the first in a series from the National Literacy Trust) provides the first overview of the evidence linking literacy and life expectancy in England through the conduits of health and socioeconomic factors.

Key findings

  • Literacy is linked to life expectancy through a range of socioeconomic factors. People with poor literacy skills are more likely to be unemployed, have low incomes and poor health behaviours, which in turn can be linked to lower life expectancy.
  • Literacy is linked to life expectancy through health. Those with low levels of literacy are more likely to have poor health, low health literacy and engage in harmful health behaviours, which in turn puts them at a higher risk of living a shorter life.
  • The analysis shows that people living in areas of England with the most serious literacy challenges are more likely to have shorter life expectancies than people living in communities with the fewest literacy challenges.
  • The national gap in life expectancy between children from communities with the highest and lowest vulnerability to literacy problems in the country is staggering:
    • A boy growing up in a ward with one of the highest vulnerabilities to literacy problems in the country has a life expectancy 26.1 years shorter than a boy growing up in a ward with one of the lowest vulnerabilities to literacy problems.
    • A girl growing up in a ward with one of the highest vulnerabilities to literacy problems in the country has a life expectancy 20.9 years shorter than a girl growing up in a ward with one of the lowest vulnerabilities to literacy problems.

About the data

  • This report explores existing research from a wide range of sources, including longitudinal data and analysis, academic journals, and domestic and international surveys, to establish the depth of the relationship between literacy and life expectancy.
  • This report defines life expectancy as the average number of years a person may be expected to live at birth, unless otherwise specified. The term longevity is used synonymously with life expectancy. The term 'mortality' refers to the relative frequency of deaths or a death rate in a given population. Healthy life expectancy refers to the time one is expected to live in good health.

Other recent reports

  • The Department for Education has released a report on characteristics of young people who are long-term NEET.
  • A blog post by Education Datalab looks at Progress 8 scores of minority ethnic long-term disadvantaged pupils by region.
  • YoungMinds have released a report on addressing the mental health needs of young people who face complexity and adversity in their lives.
  • A paper, published in the British Educational Research Journal, looks at the effects of linear assessment and student characteristics on GCSE entry decisions.