The Education and Health Select Committees this week published a joint report, Children and young people’s mental health – the role of education.
The report makes a number of welcome recommendations for tackling the mental health crisis in our classrooms. It lends weight to many of the issues repeatedly raised by NCB, the Partnership for Mental Health and Wellbeing in Schools (hosted by NCB), and the Wise Up campaign, led by Young Minds.
With three children in every classroom experiencing a diagnosable mental health problem and 90% of school leaders reporting an increase in the number of students experiencing anxiety and stress in the past five years, the joint report provides a welcome consideration of how wellbeing provision could be improved across our schools and colleges.
Importantly, it emphasises that wellbeing support must not be confined to PSHE (Personal Social and Health Education) classes and supports the idea of a whole-school approach which embeds wellbeing throughout the every aspect of a school’s culture.
Further, while highlighting evidence that shows half of all lifelong mental illness starts before age 15 and 75% by age 18, the report examines how the current system of mental health support on offer by education providers could be improved.
Across the country, average wait times for an initial Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) appointment are now at 26 weeks and it’s estimated that just one in four children get the mental health support that they need. The joint committee recognises this issue and highlight ‘unacceptable’ levels of variation, both in terms of wait times and the quality of links between education providers and CAMHS, across England.
All of the joint committee’s recommendations are welcomed by NCB. Importantly, they call for:
- A whole-school approach to mental health and wellbeing;
- The Government to strengthen mental health training and continued professional development for teachers;
- The Government to develop a structured approach to referrals from education providers to CAMHS and for the Government to commit resources to build on the existing CAMHS link pilot, so that effective joined up services can be established all over the country;
- An enhanced Ofsted inspection framework whereby mental health and wellbeing provision contributes to a school’s overall score; and
- Support for teachers and families to help children and young people stay safe online and tackle cyber bullying.
As part of the Wise Up campaign, NCB, together with YoungMinds, is calling for the education system to be rebalanced so that pupil wellbeing is considered as important as academic attainment - as the committee report puts it ‘achieving a balance between promoting academic attainment and well-being should not be regarded as a zero-sum activity’.
Looking to the future, whatever the outcome on 8 June, we urge the incoming Government to continue with their plans to publish a Green Paper for children and young people’s mental health and the newly formed Education and Health committees to revisit this issue again in order explore some of these issues in more depth in the new parliament.