Abigail MeadowFebruary 3rd
2020

A recent survey showed that English schools buying in mental health support has almost doubled in three years.

In 2016, just over a third (36%) of the schools surveyed provided school-based support for students' emotional and mental wellbeing.

Yet, in 2019, 66% of school leaders said they now are buying in professional support for students, including school-based councillors.

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The poll, created by National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), shows that schools are developing a better understanding and recognition of children's mental health needs.

However, some headteachers argue there is still a lack in specialist services for children with more serious issues, reports the Guardian.

Only 4% of the school leaders agreed that child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) respond quickly to requests for help, and 5% said children referred to it 'when they needed it'.

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The survey of 653 primary and secondary leaders accross England was taken on behalf of NAHT and children's mental health charity Place2Be, who offer school-based support.

The survey found that 79% of schools have a positive approach to mental health across the whole school and 78% have a staff member responsible for mental wellbeing.

67% of schools surveyed have staff who are trained in mental health and 66% of leaders said pupils feel confident enough to talk to staff about any issues.

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However, in 2017 just 39% of school leaders said staff would feel confident in dealing with a student who is in a mental health crisis, whereas the most recent survey shows that number to have increased to 44%.

Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary said early intervention was key and welcomed schools' new understanding of children's mental health and needs.

He also warned that teachers need to be able to rely on experts who could provide the right care in a timely manner.

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He said: “We can see that schools are responding to an increasing need and a lack of capacity in specialist services by commissioning their own support such as counsellors. Although to be applauded, this is another area where schools are being forced to use scant resources for urgent provision that is not provided for in their budgets.

"There is still concern that when children do have more serious mental health needs, professional help is not easily available. Teachers are on the frontline for children’s mental health, but they are not qualified medical specialists.”

Place2Be’s chief executive, Catherine Roche, said: “Three children in every classroom now has a mental health issue, so it is positive to see these results which show that more school leaders are responding to this need by providing professional support for children and young people within school.

“But schools cannot tackle this problem alone. They need expert help in school, backed up by NHS services that can step in when more specialist support is required.”

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