The Education Policy Institute’s Independent Commission on Children and Young People’s Mental Health report, ‘Time to Deliver’, calls for every school to have a mental health lead, evidence-based training and be inspected on pupil wellbeing. Mental health problems have a long term cost estimated to be as much as £105bn per year. As these problems are occurring with more severity earlier on in life, early intervention is needed, but services struggle to manage this.
The restructuring of services and lack of budgeting geared towards helping young people’s mental health leaves gaps, which the report encourages integrated support initiatives to fill. It praises alternative non-medical approaches, such as those in schools, as effective ways of engaging young people. While teachers may not have the capacity in their workload to fully engage with mental health wellbeing, ongoing interventions which are consistently evaluated for effectiveness can be an important way of tackling this. The report also suggests that children should have a form of key worker in this so they can trust them, for which an external individual may be beneficial.
It is important for schools to recognise the role they play in wellbeing and the report suggests Oftsed attention should be given to this. Research from the Department of Education also shows that improved emotional, behavioural, social and school wellbeing, increases academic levels and causes children to be more engaged in school. This impacts long term educational progress and lesson the cost burden on the education system.
Early interventions into mental health need to focus on prevention through understanding how problems develop, and this can be made possible by a health and wellbeing leader in every school. The report suggests using the WHO (World Health Organisation) recommended “Whole School Approach” model, which includes a general ethos of wellbeing and social and emotional learning, as well as ingraining a system for monitoring the need for and impact of intervention.
“The report makes it clear that children’s mental health must be prioritised accordingly. Schools have no alternative but to address the mental ill health of their pupils and they need support to be able to do this most effectively.
Including pupil wellbeing within Ofsted’s framework will certainly focus attention but a broader and more collaborative system wide approach is required if we want to do more than simply place a sticking plaster on the problem.”
– John Bishop, Evolve Managing Director
To read the full report click here.