Colleges could act as a “focus” for providing mental health support for school pupils and apprentices, as well as their own learners.
In response to a joint committee report on the government’s Green Paper on children and young people’s mental health, the education secretary, Damian Hinds, and health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said there will need to be different approaches for colleges and for schools.
In their Failing a generation report, the Commons Education Select Committee and its sister Health and Social Care Select Committee challenged the government over what it saw as ministers “not adequately recognising the substantial differences between schools and colleges” in how to support the differing mental health needs of their respective learners.
The committees was also critical over a failure to mention apprentices at all in the original 554-page Green Paper.
'Colleges acting as a focus for support'
The secretaries of state said in their response that the government had avoided implementing a “one-size-fits-all approach” as the designated senior leads in mental health would need to play “very different roles in different settings”.
They continued: “We expect that trailblazers linked to colleges will develop sector-specific approaches – either as a standalone post-16 approach or with colleges acting as a focus for support across a wider group, including schools.
“We want mental health support teams to improve support for young people and will support trailblazers that test how to deliver support to apprentices and other young people in work-based learning. A further education college might be well-placed to provide a focus for teams that make these wider links in a way that does not place undue burdens on employers.”
£300m for youth mental health
The Green Paper outlines government plans to spend £300 million on mental health services for children and young people and up to £95 million will be used to fund senior leaders in mental health in every college and school.
As part of its submitted evidence to the committee, the Association of Colleges reported that 85 per cent of colleges said that they had experienced an increase in students declaring mental health issues.
Stuart Rimmer, chair of the AoC’s mental health policy group, said the Green Paper was “not ambitious enough” in terms of timescale and “risks leaving many young people without the support services they need now”.