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School leaders support government mental health plans but call for faster implementation to fix ‘postcode lottery’

Responding to the government’s mental health green paper consultation response published today (Wednesday 25 July), Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “We are pleased that the government has acknowledged the fantastic work which is already happening around the country in our schools to support pupils mental wellbeing, despite the challenges they face in insufficient funding and the lack of timely availability of support from specialist services.

“But schools and teachers cannot take care of children and young people’s mental health all on their own. NAHT has been absolutely clear on the right role for schools and their staff and government have accepted this. The role of the new Designated Mental Health leads in schools is not that of a mental health professional, and teachers and school leaders should not be involved in the diagnosis or treatment of mental health conditions. We welcome the government’s commitment that appropriate and high quality funded training will be available to schools.

“School leaders know just how urgent it is that access to specialist health services is improved – a recent study showed 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.

“Although we recognise that the initial trailblazer pilots are important first steps towards long term improvement, our concerns remain for the children, young people and schools who may still see no improvement in mental health support in their area for many years. With only 20-25 per cent of the country involved over the next five years, too many children and young people will continue to struggle without help, their health and education suffering based on a postcode lottery.

“The integration of more mental health professionals in schools, to provide early support and intervention, has the potential to really make a difference to children and young people. We understand that developing and training this new workforce, as well as finding effective and sustainable ways to implement them in different areas, will take time, but we urge the Departments of Education and Health to actively seek ways to increase the pace of the rollout of these teams across the country.”

Press and Media contacts:

Steven George
NAHT Head of Press and Media
01444 472886
07970 907730

Rose Tremlett 
Senior Press Officer 
07545 354363

Email : press.office@naht.org.uk