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School leaders unable to access mental health support for children

A poll of school leaders gathered in Liverpool for NAHT’s Annual Conference showed that 93% are unable to access specialist mental health support for the children in their school when they need it.

School leaders will also be voting today (Friday 4 May) to support a motion calling for the government to recognise the sheer scale of urgent improvements needed for mental health services across the country.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “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.

“We currently have a system in crisis, where unsupported children and young people are at best struggling to learn and at worst are at serious risk.”

Sarah Hannafin, Senior Policy Advisor for NAHT, said: “The scale and pace of proposed by the government’s Children and Young People’s Mental Health Green Paper does not go far enough. Just 20-25% 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.

“Too many children and young people will continue to struggle without help, their health and education suffering based on a postcode lottery.”

Paul Whiteman continued: “NAHT urge the government to increase the capacity of existing mental health services in all local areas immediately. More capacity, funding and training is needed urgently for schools and mental health services in all areas to make sure that all children and young people have equal access to the support they might need.”

The new President of NAHT, head teacher Andy Mellor, has chosen Place2Be, the leading national children's mental health charity, as NAHT’s charity partner for the coming year. 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.

Andy Mellor said: “School leaders have been clear that they need access to high-quality resources to help schools’ work in supporting children’s mental wellbeing, and this new website is a fantastic practical resource, drawing together quality-assured and useful information and resources into one place. We’d encourage all primary school leaders and their teams to bookmark it.

“Head teachers I talk to tell me that the mental health of the children in their schools has deteriorated over recent years and for schools to fully address the learning needs of their children, the mental health needs of their children need to be met. Place2Be offer a level of expertise and support for schools which does just that. It addresses the mental health needs of the child so that as schools we can address learning needs.”

Catherine Roche, Chief Executive of Place2Be, said: “We’re delighted to be chosen as NAHT’s charity partner at this important time for children’s mental health. Our experience and evidence shows that schools play a vital role in promoting positive mental health, as well as supporting pupils to cope with life’s challenges and to develop the resilience that we all need in life.

“Teachers are well-placed to spot issues early on, but they should not be expected to become mental health experts. Children’s mental health has never been higher on the national agenda and we know early intervention is effective.  But there is still so much work to do to ensure that all pupils can access high quality, evidence-based mental health support when they need it. In our partnership with NAHT this year we look forward to continuing to champion the truly valuable work of so many schools around 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