27 June 2017
Commenting on the proposals by the Department of Health and the Department for Education to give £200,000 funding to help teachers understand and identify mental health issues in children, Rosamund McNeil, Head of Education at the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said: “The Government needs to get real about prioritising mental health investment. Mental health services have faced years of chronic under-funding. Parents of youngsters with anorexia, self-harm, depression and other challenges can’t find the specialist support they need. Identifying pupils via schools is one key element but young people and children need specialist clinical help, near to where they live and fast enough to intervene early.
“Many children in every cohort have emotional and behavioural needs which require support from outside the school. Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services need to be expanded to ensure schools have the appropriate places and fully trained professionals to refer families to. Early intervention for children works best where Early Years and schools sit at the heart of a network of local services for children and their families.
“Some children cite the exam factory approach to education as one of the reasons they experience high levels of stress. In order to support children’s mental health effectively, the Government should review the role of high stakes testing in connection to children’s mental health and wellbeing. They should listen carefully to the recommendations of the recent Education Select Committee’s report Children and young people's mental health - role of education inquiry.
“Pastoral posts in schools should be increased and the curriculum needs to include enough time for sport, physical activity and arts subjects. With the crisis in school funding this gets harder, not easier. The Government needs to give schools the funding, flexible curriculum, and staffing levels they need to support children and young people’s individual needs, as well as increasing national investment on local mental health support.”