Every school should have a mental health leader and evidence-based training for their teaching staff, according to the high-profile research body The Education Policy Institute (EPL). The body also recommended that Ofsted should add student well-being to inspection criteria, Schools Week reports.
The EPL’s independent commission on school children’s mental health has warned that schools are struggling to co-operate with health services due to bureaucracy and heavy staff workloads.
The EPL’s recent report, Time to Deliver, has called for a ‘prime minister challenge on children’s mental health’ to include statutory PSHE classes, a mental health leader in all schools, and evidence-based training on the issue for teachers.
The commission has echoed recommendations from the Institute for Public Policy Research for more frequent inspection of school mental health provisions.
Former care minister Norman Lamb, who now chairs the commission, has warned of a “treatment gap” resulting in specialist services turning away one in four of the children referred to them by their GPs or teachers.
Miscommunication abounds between the health and education sectors, with the report stating that both sectors attested to “difficulties” engaging with the other.
Obstacles include school district boundaries not being the same as NHS organisational boundaries, which leaves schools with more than one mental health service to co-operate with.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said:
“School leaders agree that there needs to be closer working between mental health services and schools, focusing on early intervention rather than waiting until children reach crisis point.
We would urge the government to fund both schools and mental health services sufficiently and to provide the required training to enable this close working to take place.”
The report also warned that a more fragmented education sector caused by the “proliferation of multi-academy trusts” was leading to confusion among health partners. However, the report acknowledges that such problems existed before the rise in the number of academies.
Schools did not always have “easy access” to the NHS, the report said. One commissioner told the commission that “some schools don’t even know who their school nurse is.”
The report goes on to highlight the pressure schools are under, and said health leaders faced problems with school staff failing to attend meetings.