Mental health services within education to face increased pressure

Published by Will Dodds on September 5th 2021, 8:08am

Mental health support services within schools are likely to come under increased pressure as students return following the summer, the London Evening Standard has reported.

James Handscombe, head of Harris Westminster sixth form, told the Evening Standard last week that mental health issues among students was becoming increasingly prevalent, with teachers preparing to see a larger burden on support staff.

"There is certainly a lot for us to do," he said.

"There is a finite amount of money in the world but I would be targeting it at supporting pastoral care and the mental health needs of young people, particularly at low-level preventative interventions.”

Schools could also be required to reintroduce COVID-19 measures with cases on the rise, with education unions warning that a lack of safety mitigations could lead to a surge in absences and further disruption to learning.

Meanwhile, schools need to offer on-site testing for students.

Red Hall Primary School headteacher Julie Davidson told The Parliamentary Review in a recent edition that through investing in a pupil wellbeing team, staff are able to take action quickly before a mental issue becomes worse.

"We invest in a strong pupil wellbeing team, which includes weekly wellbeing meetings, which are used to discuss every child in the school who may be causing us a concern," she wrote.

"Through this immediate action, we are proactive in dealing with children’s and families’ emotional needs, rather than reactive."

This is an approach that has earned the school plaudits in the past, including the Well-Being Award in 2018, which recognised how Red Hall promotes "positive social and emotional wellbeing, mental health and wellness for pupils and staff".

St Mary's RC Primary School is another example of best practice within mental health provision, which headteacher Dee Raynor discussed in her recent contribution to The Parliamentary Review.

The school uses a pastoral lead who operates a variety of programmes and initiatives to ensure students are in the "right frame of mind for learning".

"This focus on wellbeing extends to the children and is directed by our pastoral lead, who we have given a more central role in the last 12 months," she wrote.

"To ensure wellbeing is addressed, we offer a Time to Talk programme which invites students to speak to our pastoral lead if they have any concerns or worries. This makes sure the children are listened to and are in the right frame of mind for learning. Many interventions are offered, such as art therapy, resilience building, managing my emotions and circle of friends to ensure all pupils are happy in school. Our pastoral lead also completes Early Help assessments with parents to help parent wellbeing also."

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Authored By

Will Dodds
Senior Journalist
September 5th 2021, 8:08am

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