Half of schools struggling to get mental health services for pupils

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More evidence has emerged of schools struggling to provide mental health support for students, with more than half of school leaders saying they finding it hard to locate services.

According to a survey by the NAHT heads’ union and the children’s mental health charity Place2Be, 56 per cent of school leaders say it is "difficult to find" mental health services for their pupils.

The survey of 1,115 individuals across England and Wales – published as part of children’s mental health week – found that more than one in five (22 per cent) of school leaders who attempt to find support are unsuccessful.

However, demand for the services appears to be increasing – 93 per cent of school leaders say that pupils bring more worries into school than they did five years ago.

The most common barriers to finding support are lack of capacity in services (36 per cent), lack of local services (31 per cent) and budget constraints (28 per cent).

However, access varies by region, with two-thirds of respondents in the South West (67 per cent) and West Midlands (66 per cent) saying it is “difficult or very difficult” to find services, compared to only 37 per cent in London.

In primary schools, 97 per cent of school leaders feel that people underestimate the level of mental health problems amongst pupils.

While 95 per cent of primary school leaders feel that their teachers go “above and beyond” to support their pupils’ wellbeing, only 39 per cent feel confident that their staff would know how to respond to a mental health crisis.

The survey’s findings add to a growing picture of inadequate provision for children’s mental health.

According to government figures published last month, fewer than two in five classroom teachers can get help for pupils’ mental health problems.

And last week, TES reported that almost a third of secondaries are planning to cut back on the mental health support they offer pupils, with most blaming squeezed budgets.

Russell Hobby, the NAHT’s general secretary, said that at a time when awareness of children’s mental health issues is growing, “resources are being taken away”.

“This problem is exacerbated when the school seeks to access help itself, because of the chaos in the health and social care system,” he said.

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