The Institute for Public Policy Research recently (a left-leaning think tank) published a report following research into mental health in secondary schools. The report states that there is a “crisis affecting children and young people’s mental health in England”, citing figures that three pupils in every classroom have a diagnosable mental health condition. Furthermore, in 2016 90% of secondary school headteachers reported an increase in rates of mental health problems - such as anxiety and depression among their pupils - over the previous five years. However, at the same time local mental health services have experienced cuts to their budgets, making it difficult for them to meet demand.
The report argues that secondary schools are well placed to act as “hubs” for early intervention provision, but that this is currently patchy. This is caused by four main barriers:
schools being unable to access sufficient funding and resources
a lack of established mechanisms by which schools can influence commissioning decisions taken by clinical commissioning groups (CCGs)
the inconsistent quality of mental health support available to schools to buy in directly
a lack of external checks on the appropriateness and quality of the approaches taken by individual schools
The report recommends that by the end of the current parliament, all secondary schools should be guaranteed at least one day per week of onsite support from a child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) professional, rising to two days a week by 2022/23. It suggests that this is funded from within CCG budgets, but delivered in schools. The report also recommends that Ofsted must ensure that inspectors actually assess schools’ mental health provision according to the changes to the framework that were introduced in 2015/16. The Guardian reports that a government spokesman agreed with the principle of on-site support in schools and confirmed that inspection of mental health provision in schools would be discussed with Ofsted.