Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, which represents the majority of schools, said: “Teachers are on the frontline for children’s mental health. They are with their pupils every day and see the impact mental health problems can have on their wellbeing and progress.
“But schools and teachers cannot take care of children and young people’s mental health all on their own. Teachers are not qualified mental health professionals, and they rely on access to specialist support.
“And that’s where the system breaks down. Thresholds for accessing mental health support are too high and waiting lists are too long. We know that only a quarter of children and teenagers who need treatment for mental health problems are able to access it, with many having to wait as long as 18 months before they receive any help. Teachers often have to re-refer the same child for help.
“Schools are being left to pick up the pieces, struggling to do as much as they can to support children and their families without the expert help which is needed.
“The government is taking steps to improve mental health services for children and young people, and its mental health green paper takes the right approach. But it doesn’t go far enough, quickly enough. New funding and training won’t reach the vast majority of areas for more than 5 years. Children need help now. We urge the departments of Health and Education to accelerate their plans and urgently improve access to mental health support for children and young people across the country.”
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