Exclusive: Third of secondary schools to cut mental health support

School leaders blame ‘budgets at breaking point’ for plans to cut back mental health and emotional wellbeing services

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Almost a third of secondaries are planning to cut back on the mental health support they offer pupils, with most blaming squeezed budgets, a survey of school leaders suggests.

In the poll by the NAHT headteachers’ union, shared exclusively with TES, 31 per cent of secondary leaders reported that there would be a reduction in the services they provided to protect children’s emotional and mental wellbeing over the next year.

Two-thirds (67 per cent) of the schools changing their level of mental health support attributed this to budget pressures.

Sarah Hannafin, the NAHT’s policy lead for secondary schools, told TES: "Budgets are at breaking point and most schools are having to look at where they are using their funding."

The issue of mental health problems among young people has been rising rapidly up the political agenda. Prime minister Theresa May identified children’s mental health as a key priority for her government and last month pledged to have at least one teacher trained in "mental health first-aid" in every secondary school by 2019.

Strain on mental health services

But the NAHT’s findings provide further evidence of the increasing strain on mental health services available to schools. Only 12 per cent of the school leaders polled said they would be increasing their support for pupils’ emotional and mental wellbeing.

As well as asking about mental health, the NAHT survey – involving 148 secondary school leaders and conducted in November and December – also looked at the transition between primary and secondary and sixth-form provision

More than half of the respondents (55 per cent) said that the new key stage 2 scale scores were less or much less useful than the national curriculum levels they had replaced, and 85 per cent said that their school used its own tests to provide more useful information about students arriving in Year 7.

More than a quarter (27 per cent) reported a reduction in the range of A-level subjects their school provided as a result of the decision to "decouple" AS and A levels.

This is an edited article from the 3 February edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full article here. This week's TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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