The education secretary believes the next few months are ‘crucial’ in supporting mental health initiatives in schools.
In addition to lost learning time, the coronavirus pandemic has majorly impacted mental health in schools. Millions of pounds have been allocated to tackling its effects and improving mental health initiatives in schools. The government has confirmed that over £17m will be used to boost support in schools as part of Mental Health Awareness Week.
The education secretary, Gavin Williamson, said the pandemic has been “difficult” for the mental health and wellbeing of many children and the next few months would be “crucial in supporting their recovery”.
The extra funding will be used to train thousands of senior mental health leads in schools across England who will also provide training for education staff so they can support children struggling because of the pandemic.
Mental Health Initiatives in Schools
The NHS have expanded their services by starting a scheme aimed at supporting pupils’ mental health. Mental health experts will be placed in schools to assist children impacted by the coronavirus and lockdowns. NHS England claims its mental health support teams are ready to support over one million children across the country. This figure is likely to increase to three million by 2023.
Coronavirus restrictions over the past year have meant that children were unable to go into school, socialise and generally live everyday life as they once did. Experts have found thousands more children have sought help for mental health issues since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Dr Bernadka Dubicka from the child and adolescent faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists said: “Our children and young people are bearing the brunt of the mental health crisis caused by the pandemic and are at risk of lifelong mental illness.”
When schools reopened in March 2021, educators were urged to look out for significant mental health issues among pupils.
The chief inspector at Ofsted, Amanda Spielman, noted that there had been a rise in issues such as self-harm and eating disorders. She said pupils have faced “boredom, loneliness, misery and anxiety” so after months of being home the transition back to school was rocky for many.
The government said the new £17m funding boost will provide students with “better support and expert advice” in school “to help them recover from the challenges of the pandemic”.
Gavin Williamson said: “Success in school and college goes beyond an excellent education – as parents we want our children to feel settled, calm and happy while they learn.”
He added: “That’s why we’re providing new funding to make experts available for support, advice and early intervention or specialist help, so every young person knows who and where to turn to as we build back better after the pandemic.”
Geoff Barton from the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said the union was “pleased” to hear about the increased funding in mental health support.
He said: “We have to say that this comes after years of government underfunding of schools and colleges which has taken its toll on their capacity to provide pastoral support, and very severe difficulties in accessing NHS children’s mental health services for young people with complex problems,”.
“However, the initiatives now being implemented are a step in the right direction and we look forward to seeing further detail.”
The general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, Paul Whiteman said: “Teachers and school leaders have seen the impact lockdown and the pandemic has had on children’s mental health.
“Children are returning to school needing not just academic help, but a wide range of pastoral, mental health and wellbeing support too, all of which requires additional resources.”
He added: “But schools cannot be the only place children or their families are able to turn for help with mental health. The support of well-integrated and well-funded social and health services is equally vital. Sadly, these services have been seriously damaged by a decade of austerity.”
Mental Health Initiatives in schools: The Bottom Line for m
The NHS Digital statistics (2020) showed an increased number of young people are experiencing more mental health issues than they did before the pandemic. A greater proportion of five- to 16-year-olds were found to be dealing with mental health problems last July compared to in 2017. There was even a 50 percent rise in mental health disorders among young people compared to the previous year. Schools cannot go without mental health support.
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