9 January 2017
Commenting on the pledge today by the Prime Minister to change attitudes towards the mental health issues of young people, Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:
"The mental health and emotional wellbeing of children and young people is of paramount importance. At the moment, the number of children in need of support is outstripping services. Schools should play an important role in contributing to the review but providing training in mental health first aid will only be helpful if enough support and resources are put in place to support children and young people when they’re referred on from school.
"Children cite school stress as one of the things making them worried about modern life. Teachers are very worried about the pressures that an ‘exam factory’ culture in schools is putting on pupils. Excessive testing is making many children feel a failure from the start of their school life. Children are more than a score but the way the Government chooses to measure schools is impacting very negatively on the mental health of teachers and students. We should assess children’s ability to be creative, collaborative and critical thinkers rather than using old fashioned performance indicators which generate teaching to the test in a narrow number of subjects, and puts excessive pressure on students.
"A strategy to promote child well-being and positive mental health should range far wider than the issue of first aid. It should aim to increase learning and playing outdoors for all age groups; it should increase funding for pastoral posts in schools; it should include more sport and physical activity in the school week; and it must protect subjects such as arts, music and drama which have such positive benefits for mental health. The Government should work with the profession to shape an ambitious strategy for supporting happy, healthy young people. But Theresa May needs to accept that increasing national investment in local mental health services can’t wait."