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Lack of funds to help depressed youngsters

Many primaries are failing to address the emotional and social needs of their pupils, because of lack of funding. A survey by health charity the King's Fund, examined school-based support for primary pupils with emotional or behavioural difficulties in nine London boroughs.

Researchers found severe problems in children as young as five. Many had unstable home lives. Some were boisterous and aggressive. Others were quiet and withdrawn, failing to make friends or to participate in school activities.

But, while all primaries stressed the importance of identifying these children early, few could afford to provide help for all of them. The report says a number of projects had waiting lists and had to prioritise needs.

And a voluntary-sector worker is quoted as saying: "There are simply more children out there than we can help." Bronach Hughes, development manager for the National Pyramid Trust, which sends specialists into primaries to discuss pupils' emotional needs, said: "Where money goes in, it tends to be for children on the verge of immediate exclusion. There's very little to support the bigger majority of children, with anxiety, depression or low self-esteem. Because they're not disruptive, they can be easily overlooked." The best way to tackle these children's problems, she says, is to promote their sense of self-worth in the classroom. Some children may require small-group or one-to-one support.

The survey also reveals that parents of many pupils with problems often have unhappy memories of their own school days. They are reluctant to return to school or to discuss their children's problem.

* www.kingsfund.org.uk

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