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Head-teachers unable to find mental health support for pupils

Over half of head-teachers are reporting difficulties accessing mental health services for pupils, research launched for Children’s Mental Health Week.

mental health

The study by Place2Be and the National Association of Head-Teachers found that 56% of school leaders say it is difficult to find mental health services for pupils, and more than one in five who attempt to find support are unsuccessful.

The most common barriers to finding support are:

  • lack of capacity in services 36%
  • no local services 31%
  • budget constraints 28%

However the difficulties accessing services come against a concerning backdrop as 93% of heads say that pupils bring more worries into school than they did five years ago.

James Bowen, director of middle leaders’ union NAHT Edge, added: “Schools have always been on the front line with children's mental health because school is often where issues first become apparent and a school is often a parent's first port of call if they are looking for support. While we have a better acknowledgement of the extent of mental illness amongst children and young people than ever before, the services that schools, families and children rely on are under great pressure. Rising demand, growing complexity and tight budgets are getting in the way of helping the children who need it most.”

The study found that 96% of head teachers say pupils’ ability to learn is negatively affected by the worries they bring to school while 92% say teaching staff have to manage issues for pupils that go beyond their professional role

In primary schools, the study found:

  • 97% of primary school leaders say people underestimate the level of mental health problems among school children
  • 2 in 5 feel confident that their staff could respond to a pupil’s mental health crisis
  • 95% of primary school leaders feel staff go ‘above and beyond’ to support pupil wellbeing

The prime minister recently announced measures to tackle mental health problems in schools and organisations, however, the mental health training unveiled by Theresa May will be offered to secondary schools rather than primary schools.

Catherine Roche, Chief Executive of Place2Be said: “In classrooms up and down the country, we know teachers are working incredibly hard to support the emotional needs of their pupils. They know when something is wrong, but it can be difficult to know how best to help, especially when there are no mental health professionals to turn to. Place2Be strongly believes in the power of early intervention. Our evidence shows that making support accessible to children from a young age can have a hugely beneficial impact on their wellbeing, and also reduces the burden on teachers so they can focus on learning. Both primary and secondary schools need to be able to access this support.”

The survey is available here


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