Commenting on a new, joint report from the Education and Health Select Committees, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:
“We’ve been ringing the alarm bell about the mental health crisis in our schools, about the growing numbers of children and young people who are struggling, and more worryingly, about how long they have to wait to get help, even when they’re in crisis.”
A poll of school leaders gathered in Liverpool for NAHT’s Annual Conference at the weekend showed that 93% are unable to access specialist mental health support for the children in their school when they need it.
NAHT members also voted overwhelmingly to support a motion calling for the government to recognise the sheer scale of urgent improvements needed for mental health services across the country.
Mr Whiteman continued: “School leaders are reporting a serious – and growing – concern for children’s mental wellbeing. The demand for professional mental health services has increased in recent years, but funding has plummeted. This means that schools are finding it very difficult to get children the support they need.”
Sarah Hannafin, Senior Policy Advisor for NAHT, said: “The scale and pace proposed by the government’s Children and Young People’s Mental Health Green Paper does not go far enough. Just 20-25 per cent of the country will be involved during a ‘Trailblazer Phase’ over the next five years. This means that significant numbers of schools, children and young people will not benefit as there will be little, or even no, improvement to provision in their area. This can only exacerbate the existing inequalities in accessing timely treatment and support for children and young people.”
Mr Whiteman concluded: “As I said in my remarks during the committee’s evidence sessions, we are not coming from a strong starting point. There are not enough resources there already. Once we begin to develop an identification of a further need, it is just going to create more frustration within the system, and that frustration of itself will cause more problems.
“Schools can only be as successful as the services that they can access. We must make sure that schools are properly supported by health and social care, allowing them to continue their role in promoting pupil wellbeing and not making up for cuts to other services.
“Teachers aren’t the ones who should be treating mental health. We should leave that to the experts in that field.”
In recognition of the importance of young people’s mental health and wellbeing, NAHT’s charity partner for 2018/19 is Place2Be. NAHT has worked closely with Place2Be for many years, most recently playing an active role in developing a new website, Mentally Healthy Schools, developed by Heads Together and launched by Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge in March, which offers primary schools access to quality-assured information, advice and resources to support their pupils’ mental wellbeing.
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