Millions of pounds are to be spent on boosting mental health support in schools to help pupils recover from the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, it has been announced.
The Government has pledged more than £17 million to go towards upgrading mental health support in education as part of Mental Health Awareness Week.
Funding will be used to to train thousands of senior mental health leads in schools across England and to provide training for education staff to deal with children experiencing pressures brought on by the pandemic.
‘Next months crucial in children’s recovery’
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.”
The Department for Education has also pledged to fund an adapted Link programme, designed to improve partnerships between health and education leaders in local areas.
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.”
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.”
‘This comes after years of government underfunding’
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “We’re pleased to see the Government announcing this investment in mental health support as well as its announcement on Saturday about NHS mental health support teams for schools.
“We have to say that this comes after years of Government underfunding of schools and colleges which has taken its toll on their capacity to provide pastoral support, and very severe difficulties in accessing NHS children’s mental health services for young people with complex problems.
“However, the initiatives now being implemented are a step in the right direction and we look forward to seeing further detail.”
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “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 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.”
It comes as a survey, carried out by Censuswide, on behalf of BBC Children In Need, found 68% of children aged 11-18 believe that young people’s mental health has got worse as a result of the pandemic.
One in three (34%) said they do not feel comfortable asking for help if they need it.
The survey was UK wide, and carried out by 1,012 parents with children aged 11-18 years old and 1,000 children aged 11-18 years old.