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Schools’ post-Covid gap in mental health counselling for pupils and support for parents


Only half of teachers say their school can offer pupils on-site mental-health counselling in wake of pandemic, finds @IPPR 

New survey data reveal signs of major inequalities, with private and state schools in better-off areas more likely to provide access to some key services 

The government should introduce a national entitlement to key support services within schools after the pandemic, the IPPR think tank urges today, as its research revealed clear signs of inequality and decline. 

Far fewer state schools appear to be providing key services to support vulnerable students, including on-site counselling and parental support programmes, than were doing so a decade ago, says a new IPPR report on the future of education after the pandemic. 

New survey data has also exposed a clear gulf in provision of all kinds of health support between state schools in more affluent areas and those serving least well-off communities – and an even wider gap with private schools. The findings come amid unprecedented and continuing disruption to schools across the country caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Polling by Teacher Tapp for the IPPR report, conducted after the first wave of the pandemic, found 48 per cent of teachers said their schools offered on-site counselling, and 37 per cent reported parental support programmes. Private schools and state schools in more affluent areas were far more likely to provide crucial support services such as counselling, access to a school nurse and after-school clubs than those in less affluent areas.   

Meanwhile, parental support services and before-school clubs were more likely to be provided by state schools in less affluent areas but are far from universal. More than a third of teachers (38 per cent) in the most deprived areas said their schools weren’t providing before-school clubs and more than half (53 per cent) said they didn’t provide parental support services. 

Table 1: Percentage of teachers who say their schools provide key support services 


Teachers in private schools 

Teachers in state schools, most affluent quartile 

Teachers in state schools, least affluent quartile 

On-site mental health support (e.g. counsellor)  




On-site physical health (e.g. nurse) 




Regular after-school clubs 




Regular before-school clubs 




Parental support programmes 




Source: Teacher Tapp polling for IPPR 

Although direct comparisons with previous surveys are difficult to make, the new data suggest a decline in provision of these services over the last decade. A DFE study in 2010 found that 91 per cent and 86 per cent of schools were providing access to on-site counselling and parental engagement services respectively, compared to 48 per cent and 37 per cent of teachers who said their school was doing so in the new survey for IPPR.  

IPPR’s report, The New Normal: The future of education after Covid-19, argues that access to such support services will be crucial to address the sharp inequalities in children’s home-learning environment highlighted by the pandemic. Differences in pupils’ home and family backgrounds have long been acknowledged as a major cause of the attainment gap between students across England. 

Teachers agree with this approach, with more than two-thirds of state-school teachers agreeing that parental support services (77 per cent) and on-site mental health services (also 77 per cent) are key to improving attainment, while more than half also felt that regular after-school clubs (52 per cent) are needed.    

Parents would support these measures, according to a separate survey conducted by Parentkind, a leading parent charity for the IPPR report. Almost one in three parents (30 per cent) said they wanted more involvement in their children’s education than before the pandemic, and nearly three-quarters (70 per cent) said schools should prioritise mental wellbeing as they adapt to the ‘new normal’. 

To enable this, the report argues for schools to be developed as hubs for local services supporting children’s health and wellbeing. IPPR also proposes that the government establishes, and fully funds: 

  • A national entitlement to an extended school day (with activities before and after school) 

  • A comprehensive programme of parent engagement and activities 

  • On-site mental health and social work support in every school 

More broadly, the report calls for a rethink of educational priorities in the light of the pandemic, to include a national transformation fund to give all young people access to digital equipment and technology, and reflection on how the performance of both schools and their students are assessed – including the examination system. 

Harry Quilter Pinner, IPPR Associate Director and lead author of the report, said:  

“Covid-19 has exposed the profound inequalities faced by young people in our society. It has highlighted the need to support children not just inside but also outside the school gates. This means ensuring children have a safe space to study at home, parents who feel able to support them and counselling to address mental ill-health. 

“Many schools are unable to provide the support young people need to thrive. Without urgent government action to ensure every school can provide vital services such as counselling and after-school clubs there is a profound risk that the legacy of the pandemic will be even bigger educational and health inequalities.  

“The government has started to put in place some support for young people in the wake of the national lockdown. But it can and should go further: the pandemic should be seen as an opportunity to ‘build back better’. We must use this as a moment to ‘reset’ our education system and address some of the longstanding weaknesses that pre-date the pandemic.”   

Reach Academy Feltham, a free school in west London, twice rated outstanding by Ofsted, has pioneered a ‘Children’s hub’ similar to the extended schools offer for which IPPR is calling. Its co-founder and Executive Principal, Ed Vainker, said: 

“We have seen first-hand the impact of Covid-19 and the lockdown on our students and their families. At Reach Academy we are well placed to respond to this with our cradle-to-career approach and our community hub.  

“Schools are anchor organisations in communities, are trusted and have strong relationships with their families – we believe that with the right support schools can play a greater role in supporting children and families. IPPR’s findings shows that the time for action is now.”   

Kerry-Jane Packman, Executive Director of Programmes, Membership and Charitable Services at Parentkind, said: 

“Since the pandemic struck, most parents have had no choice but to become more involved than ever before in their child’s education. Many have embraced the opportunity. Our research shows that more than half of parents feel more engaged with their child’s learning now than they did before lockdown. 

“In light of this, Parentkind welcomes IPPR’s report on schooling after Covid-19. IPPR raises vital questions about how we may wish to re-evaluate the education system in light of the crisis. As they rightly say, these conversations must involve parents – the major education stakeholder and every child’s primary educator. 

“With increased parental responsibility comes an increased right for parents to be consulted and to participate in decision-making at every level.” 

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