Schools struggle to know what type of mental health support is needed for pupils

Schools struggle to know what type of mental health support is needed for pupils

Forty-five per cent of school leaders have found it difficult to commission mental health support for pupils, research shows.

According to research published by children’s mental health charity Place2B, in partnership with union NAHT, British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), and the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), 34 per cent of counsellors and psychotherapists who work with children and young people said it was difficult to provide their services to schools.

The research, based on responses from 655 school leaders and 1,198 counsellors and psychotherapists, provides a picture of the challenges faced by schools and school-based mental health professionals.

Forty-four per cent of school respondents said “knowing what type of support is needed” is a barrier to providing mental health support for pupils, and 37 per cent said they don’t feel confident in commissioning a counsellor or therapist.

Similarly, the counsellors and psychotherapists currently working in schools said that common difficulties faced were “schools’ understanding of counselling and psychotherapy for children” (57 per cent), followed by “expectations not being clear” (30 per cent).

For both schools and therapists, a lack of funding remains the most common barrier to providing support. These barriers are of critical concern as evidence shows at least 50 per cent of mental health problems in adults are established by the age of 14.

The government’s recently published green paper on ‘Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision’ recognised the “vital role” that schools can play in identifying and supporting young people experiencing problems.

However, its proposals did not include any additional funding for the majority of schools, and proposed new ‘Mental Health Support Teams’ could only reach a quarter of the country by the end of 2022/23, running the risk of greater inequality for young people.

Catherine Roche, chief executive of Place2Be said: “School leaders are already under immense pressure to deliver academic progress – and we shouldn’t expect them to become mental health experts as well.

“Our evidence and experience shows that embedding skilled mental health professionals in schools, as part of a whole school approach, can have an enormously positive impact for pupils, families and staff.

“It’s encouraging that the government’s green paper proposals have recognised this, but to really transform children’s mental health provision, we need all schools to have access to dedicated funding, support and training to be able to source, commission and evaluate services effectively.”

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