Mental health champion for UK schools axed by DfE

Natasha Devon, the government’s mental health champion for UK schools, has been axed by the Department for Education (DfE).

The move came after Devon criticised extensive testing of young people, which has been a flagship focus on the government’s education reforms.

Speaking at the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) conference, she said: “Time and time again over recent years, young people - and the people who teach them - have spoken out about how a rigorous culture of testing and academic pressure is detrimental to their mental health.

“At one end of the scale we’ve got four year-olds being tested, at the other end of the scale we’ve got teenagers leaving school and facing the prospect of leaving university with record amounts of debt. Anxiety is the fastest growing illness in under-21s. These things are not a coincidence.”

The DfE has denied that the move was politically motived or linked to her comments about testing, but instead part of a move to introduce a cross government mental health champion.

A spokesperson said: “Natasha has done a great job of helping us raise the profile of young people’s mental health since her appointment last year. Since that time, the independent NHS task force report has been published which recommended that a cross-government mental health champion be created- for this reason we have had to consider the Department’s own role.

“We have asked Natasha and others who have been involved in our work to empower schools and young people to promote good mental health, to continue to work with us as we prepare to launch our activity later this year.”

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