From education to employment

Supporting mental health in schools and colleges

The Department for Education today (8 May) updated their “Supporting Mental Health in Schools and Colleges” survey and case studies with schools on activities to support pupils’ mental health and wellbeing.

This research set out to understand what schools, colleges and other educational institutions in England currently do to promote positive mental health and wellbeing among all of their pupils, to identify and support pupils who might have particular mental health needs and to help pupils access specialist support where needed, and to explore their experiences of putting this provision into place.

The research revealed a broad range of activities and approaches aimed at promoting positive mental health and wellbeing among all pupils, identifying those who might have particular mental health needs, and supporting those with identified needs. In particular, institution-wide approaches to mental health provision were commonly adopted.

A shared vision and ethos, established processes and strong relationships between staff and pupils were seen to be key to the promotion of positive mental health and supporting pupils with particular needs, as well as early identification of those in need. Institutions referred to and/or worked in tandem with external mental health services to offer specialist mental health provision, though a lack of time and capacity within these services were highlighted as problematic.

Though this research identified some key factors that institutions felt were key to success, such as a shared vision for mental health, strong leadership, trusting relationships and high quality training, this research did not attempt to capture the quality or effectiveness of current provision. The DfE intend for this work to provide a foundation for future policy and research.

Fresh figures from the IPPR think-tank lay bare the broken system facing excluded pupils, as part of a major new study into the social mobility chances of the most vulnerable teens.

Researchers found that 1 in 2 excluded pupils experience recognised mental health problems, compared with 1 in 50 pupils in the wider population. Estimates suggest this might be as high as 100% once undiagnosed problems are taken into account.

Meanwhile government data has shown that only one in a hundred children who have been permanently excluded from mainstream schools go on to receive five good GCSE grades.

Since 2013/14 the number of pupils permanently excluded from schools has risen by 24%.

Under the current failing system, excluded pupils are four times more likely to grow up in poverty, twice as likely to be living in care, and seven times more likely to have a special educational need as other children.

This lack of specialised support then leads to a downward spiral of under-achievement, the study says, adding that:

  • Teachers in schools for excluded pupils are twice as likely to have no educational qualifications.
  • 99 per cent of excluded children will finish school without five good GCSEs required by most employers.
  • These marginalised young people are often then in a pipeline to prison: of the 85,975 people in UK prison, IPPR estimates 54,164 were excluded when at school.

The figures come as the government prepares to release the latest data on the number of pupils expelled from mainstream schools (at 0930h, Thursday 20 July).

IPPR predicts increasing pressures on schools and councils will lead to seeing a sharp rise in the number of pupils excluded.

Even these figures are likely to be a low estimate, researchers say, as councils under-report numbers.

In the coming weeks, IPPR research will publish evidence to break this cycle by developing detailed proposals for a new teaching pathway for mental health experts to work closely with excluded children.

By combining teaching skills with mental health expertise they can better respond to the complex educational and health needs of the most vulnerable pupils, helping them to get back on course to achieve their potential.

Kiran Gill, IPPR Associate Fellow and Founder of The Difference, which works to improve mental health provision for excluded pupils through evidenced-based policy interventions, said:

“Theresa May says she is committed to improving mental health of young people. Addressing the most vulnerable children being thrown out of England’s schools is a good place to start. Because unequal treatment of mental health may be an injustice, but the discrimination of school exclusions is a crime.

“The Difference is fighting to break the link between school exclusion and social exclusion in a burningly injust system, and ensure vulnerable young people get the good quality schooling they need to change their lives and trajectories.

“If the Government is serious about real action on mental health, there needs to be dedicated funding and thought-through solutions rather than sticking plasters on the symptoms of the problem.”


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