Schools and colleges struggle to provide adequate time and resource for pupils’ well-being, according to the Health and Education Committees in a joint report published today.
The Committees say an increasing number of education providers are having to cut back on mental health services, such as in-school counsellors, despite a growing prevalence of mental ill health among children and young people.
The report notes that half of all cases of mental illness in adult life start before the age of 15 and that one in 10 children aged between 5-16 have had a diagnosed mental disorder.
Schools and colleges have a front line role in promoting and protecting children and young people’s mental health and well-being but, the Government also has a significant part to play.
Both Committees welcome the Government’s commitment to make personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) mandatory in schools and colleges but, the promotion of well-being cannot be confined to PSHE lessons.
A whole school approach
The Committees support the need for a whole school approach that embeds the promotion of well-being throughout school and college culture, including changes within the curriculum and the training and continuing professional development of teachers and support staff.
The Committees recommend that this approach to mental health and well-being should be properly taken into account and reflected in Ofsted’s inspection regime and reporting.
Strong partnerships between the education sector and mental health services improve the provision of care for children’s mental health and well-being.
However, during their inquiry, the Committees saw evidence of significant variation in how well schools, colleges and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) work together and that such partnerships simply do not exist in many local areas.
The Committees call on the Government to commit sufficient resource to ensure effective services are established in all parts of the country.
Whilst there are benefits of social media, excessive social media use is also associated with sleep deprivation and depression in children and young people.
Social media providers must not be allowed to duck their responsibilities for harmful content, which affects children and young people’s online safety and well-being.
Chair of the House of Commons Health Committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, said:
"With half of all mental illness starting before the age of 15, and three quarters by aged 18, the Government and educators must ensure sufficient time is allowed for activities in schools and colleges that develop the life-long skills children and young people need to support their wellbeing."
Neil Carmichael MP, Chair of the House of Commons Education Committee, said:
"Schools and colleges have a front line role in tackling mental ill health and promoting well-being among children and young people. We have heard, however, that financial pressures are restricting their ability to run services. Schools and colleges must be well resourced to provide on-site support and make referrals where necessary."