More than £17m of government funding has been allocated for schools and colleges to improve the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people.
Over £17m has been revealed to build on mental health support already available in education settings, as it continues to prioritise wellbeing alongside academic recovery.
As part of Mental Health Awareness week, the Department for Education revealed that up to 7,800 schools and colleges in England will be offered funding worth £9.5 million to train a senior mental health lead from their staff in the next academic year.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “I know how difficult the pandemic has been for many children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing, and the next few months will be crucial in supporting their recovery. Getting back into the classroom was a vital step in this process but success in school and college goes beyond an excellent education – as parents we want our children to feel settled, calm and happy while they learn.
“That’s why we’re providing new funding to make experts available for support, advice and early intervention or specialist help, so every young person knows who and where to turn to as we build back better after the pandemic,” he added.
Funding for a £7 million Wellbeing for Education Recovery programme will provide free expert training, support and resources for staff dealing with children and young people experiencing additional pressures from the last year – including trauma, anxiety, or grief. The programme builds on the success of the Department for Education’s Wellbeing for Education Return, used by more than 90% of councils since its launch last summer.
The Department for Education will also fund a ‘Link’ programme to improve partnerships between health and education leaders in local areas, raise awareness of mental health concerns and improve referrals to specialist help when needed.
An Education Staff Wellbeing Charter will also be launched by the DfE this week, with a cross-sector commitment to protect and promote the wellbeing of all staff working in schools and colleges.
Children and Families Minister Vicky Ford said: “The past year has been incredibly difficult for so many children and young people whose resilience in the face of so much change has been heroic . Staff have been working so hard to support their pupils so I’m thrilled to be able to reassure them that we’re increasing funding, specialist support and training materials for expert care – building on the success of Wellbeing for Education Return and ensuring that the help is there for the children who need it.”
Minister for Mental Health, Nadine Dorries, said: “Our children and young people have faced unique challenges over the course of this very difficult and unsettling pandemic, and while they have shown great resilience, I recognise the need for additional support.
“It is essential that children and young people can access the support they need and this extra funding further cements our commitment to their wellbeing, equipping them with the tools to look after their mental health,” she added.
Cllr Teresa Heritage, Vice Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board said: ““This funding is a positive step to help address mental health problems, which have been exacerbated during the pandemic, particularly for children living in families with lower incomes and whose parents may be experiencing financial difficulties.
“Local councils and schools have a vital role in helping children have mentally healthy childhoods and mental health needs to be at the heart of a holistic approach to overall health and wellbeing, which includes school-based support and investment in community-based services, such as youth services.
“Supporting children early on to reduce the need for clinical interventions means more can receive help when they need it, rather than waiting until they are unwell. It is vital that effective and evidence-based mental health and wellbeing services and statutory mental health services for children are able to meet existing, new and unmet demand that has built up during the pandemic,” she added.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, added: “Teachers and school leaders have seen the impact lockdown and the pandemic has had on children’s mental health. Children are returning to school needing not just academic help, but a wide range of pastoral, mental health and wellbeing support too, all of which requires additional resources.
“But schools cannot be the only place children or their families are able to turn to for help with mental health. The support of well-integrated and well-funded social and health services is equally vital. Sadly, these services have been seriously damaged by a decade of austerity,” he concluded.