More than four-in-10 school leaders struggle to know what type of mental health support is needed for their pupils, a survey has found.
The poll also revealed that more than a third of counsellors and psychotherapists report difficulty in providing their services to schools.
The children’s mental health charity, Place2Be, carried out research in partnership with the NAHT heads’ union, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and the UK Council for Psychotherapy, to mark Children’s Mental Health Week.
The survey, based on responses from 655 school leaders and 1,198 counsellors and psychotherapists, found that 44 per cent of school respondents said “knowing what type of support is needed” is a barrier to providing mental health support for pupils.
Forty-five per cent said they had found it difficult to commission mental health support and 37 per cent said they did not feel confident in commissioning a counsellor or therapist.
Counsellors and psychotherapists also reported challenges engaging with schools, with 34 per cent of those who work with children and young people saying it was difficult to provide their services to schools.
Common difficulties cited were “schools’ understanding of counselling and psychotherapy for children”, which was reported by 54 per cent of those surveyed, and “expectations not being clear”, which was reported by 30 per cent.
The organisations behind the research urged the government to provide “dedicated funding” so that mental health services could be embedded in schools, echoing a similar call from the Local Government Association earlier this week.
Catherine Roche, chief executive of Place2Be, said: “School leaders are already under immense pressure to deliver academic progress – and we shouldn’t expect them to become mental health experts as well.
"Our evidence and experience shows that embedding skilled mental health professionals in schools, as part of a whole-school approach, can have an enormously positive impact on pupils, families and staff.”
She added: “We need all schools to have access to dedicated funding, support and training to be able to source, commission and evaluate services effectively.”
NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman said: “School leaders are not experts in therapeutic interventions, so it can be difficult to know what kind of support is needed.
“NAHT has continually argued for a more rounded approach, to take some of the emphasis away from schools and reassert the importance of well-resourced and accessible local support services.”