More than eight out of 10 teachers say mental health among pupils in England has deteriorated in the past two years, with reports rising of anxiety, self hard and even suicide, against a backdrop of inadequate support.  In a survey of 8,600 school leaders, teachers and support workers, 83% said they had witnessed an increase in the number of students with poor mental health, rising to 90% among older students in colleges.

Many described a sense of helplessness.  One likened it to “a slow-motion car crash that I am powerless to stop and can’t bear to watch or be part of”.

Others complained that real-terms funding cuts in schools were making it harder to support pupils in need.  “We are at a crisis point with mental health,” one respondent said.

The survey, gathered from members of the National Education Union ahead of their conference in Liverpool this week, also asked about the support available to pupils in distress.

Less than half said their school had a counsellor.  And while three out of 10 had been able to access external specialist support such as child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), fewer than 30% had a school nurse and only 12% had a “mental health first aider”, as favoured by the government.  There were also harrowing accounts of pupils suffering.

“SATS pressure and general expectations are taking their toll on vulnerable pupils,” one response read.  “We have nine-year-olds talking about suicide.”

Staff who took part in the survey were asked to pinpoint what hindered their support for young people experiencing mental health issues.  They blamed real-terms funding cuts (57%), cuts to the number of teaching assistants (51%) an “exam factory” system (53%) and problems accessing external support such as CAMHS (64%).

The Department of Education said: “We are investing more in mental health support – with an additional £2.3bn a year being spent by 2023-24.  By then an extra 345,000 children and young people up to the age of 25 will benefit from a range of services, including new support teams providing additional trained staff to work directly with schools and colleges.”

Source: The Guardian Wednesday 17th April 2019
Sally Weale – Education correspondent