Two-thirds of schools without mental health champion

By Tristan Donovan

| 21 December 2017

Almost two-thirds of schools do not have a dedicated mental health champion six months on from the announcement of government plans for every secondary school to have one in place.

The government has pledged an extra £1.4bn to improve child and adolescent mental health services up to 2020. Picture: Newscast Online

In June, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced plans train 3,000 English secondary school teachers as mental health "first-aid champions" so that schools can identify and respond to early signs of mental illness in pupils. The scheme, he added, would also be extended to primary schools before the next general election.

A survey of 603 school leaders and governors by Leeds Beckett University's Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools found that 65 per cent said there is still no dedicated staff member in their school who is trained in or given responsibility for pupils' mental health.

The survey also found that 58 per cent felt there was insufficient mental health support available for school children, despite 83 per cent reporting rising levels of mental illness among pupils in the past five years.

Almost every respondent (97 per cent) said mental health support in schools needs more funding and 93 per cent wanted more guidance on the issue from the Department for Education. In addition, 77 per cent wanted Ofsted school inspections to examine the quality of mental health provision.

The findings follow the publication of a government green paper earlier this month that set out plans to have a designated senior lead for mental health in every school, mental health support teams to work directly with schools, and reduced waiting times for accessing child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).

Jonathan Glazzard, professor of teacher education at Leeds Beckett University, said: "We welcome the proposals in the government green paper - Transforming Children and Young People's Mental Health Provision - which was recently published.

"However, the proposals will be gradually rolled out over several years, so not all pupils will receive the support they desperately need. Our research shows there is a clear need to address the issues of funding and training immediately."

The green paper is out for consultation until 2 March 2018.

The university's survey also found that school leaders are worried that internet and social media use is damaging children's mental health, with 86 per cent saying social media is having a detrimental impact on young people's lives and 89 per cent wishing parents would restrict the amount of time children spend online.

Last year, the government said it would provide an extra £1.4bn to improve CAMHS up to 2020, but there are concerns that clinical commissioning groups are diverting this money to other health services.

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