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Mental health to be central to education recovery

Mental health and wellbeing will be a central part of education recovery plans in education settings across England, the government has confirmed.

As the government’s Mental Health in Education Action Group convened for the final time, the coalition of health and education experts pledged to ensure the mental health and emotional wellbeing of children is a priority.

Children and Families Minister Vicky Ford said: “The mental health and wellbeing of our children and young people must remain a priority as we move forward into a new academic year, so that children can get on with their lives and their education in the best possible way.

“I’m proud of the progress our Mental Health in Education Action Group has made these past months in making sure education settings can access the significant support and investment we have provided for wellbeing. I want to encourage all school leaders to explore what’s available to them and their pupils over the summer and into next term, so we can work together to support children to build back better from the pandemic,” she added.

The group, co-chaired by Vicky Ford and Universities Minister Michelle Donelan, launched earlier this year. Members of the group – which included Mental Health Minister Nadine Dorries, Youth Mental Health Ambassador Dr Alex George, and representatives from leading mental health and education organisations - have taken feedback on areas to improve support for pupils and students as well as staff working in all areas of education, reflecting on the main challenges facing them including the increase in eating disorders and self-harm among young people and how to help staff manage their own mental wellbeing.

Members of the government’s Action Group have so far:

  • Committed £7 million for the Department for Education’s Wellbeing for Education Recovery programme, to facilitate training and resources for staff in schools and colleges.
  • Collated and coordinated all mental health delivery programmes into a single portal on the government’s website to simplify access to resources and training for schools and colleges.
  • Organised a webinar for senior leaders across the sector on pathways to accessing specialist mental health support and on how to improve collaboration between services.
  • Ensured that summer schools and Holiday, Activity and Food clubs around the country will be able to access a series of free wellbeing support videos to offer tips and tricks to improve children’s mood in a positive, energetic way.
  • Created resources for students in higher education.
  • Asked the Office for Students to allocate an additional £15 million towards university students’ mental health.

Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said: “We know how challenging the last year has been for our students and university staff and so supporting them as we recover from the pandemic remains a priority for this government.

“Through the Mental Health in Education Action Group we have already taken visible and positive steps forward to make sure students can seek help if they need it. I urge all higher education providers to look at how they care for their students who may be experiencing mental health issues and use the resources available to improve the support they receive.”

The action group has also committed to longer-term support for the sector by continuing to signpost training opportunities, resources and investment in mental health and wellbeing for staff and settings across the education sector from early years through to higher education.

This includes:

  • Senior mental health lead training, boosted by an extra £9.5 million for schools and colleges to use from September
  • More Mental Health Support Teams to support nearly three million children by 2023
  • The Suicide Prevention roundtable held with Universities UK, which will further support higher education providers to care for their students experiencing mental health issues.

Dr Alex George, Youth Mental Health Ambassador, said: “I’m so proud to be working with government as part of the Mental Health in Education Action group. It’s amazing to know that our free videos will be used in summer schools and holiday clubs, building on what’s already in the curriculum – and to know that from September, schools and colleges will have access to even more resources and training. Being in a safe and understanding environment is important now, more than ever, and all children need to know that their mental health matters.”

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