Pupils are being “failed” by mental health services, according to a scathing report from MPs which highlights how school funding cuts are hindering early intervention.
Last year the only three out of 10 students with a mental health condition received NHS-funded treatment and many more faced unacceptably long waits.
A major recent study by the NHS found growing numbers of young people are suffering from emotional disorders like depression and anxiety.
In a bid to address the issue, the health service is planning to roll out almost 60 mental health support teams this year to support close to half a million pupils.
But the Common’s Public Account Committee (PAC) cast doubt on the plans, pointing out that the vast majority of young people will still be left without treatment for years to come.
“Children and young people with mental health conditions are being failed by the NHS,” said the committee chair, Meg Hillier.
“Provision is far below required levels and many people who do get help face long waits for treatment. This can be devastating for people’s life chances; their physical health, education and work prospects.”
The study argues that early intervention in education and local services is the most effective way of reducing the toll of mental health issues.
But it noted that budget cuts have forced schools to scale back vital pastoral support due to funding challenges.
It highlighted the decline in the number of school nurses, which fell 16 per cent between April 2015 and January 2018.
Overall, the committee argued that staff shortfalls remain the biggest “roadblock” to improving mental health provision for young people.
MPs also called for better data collection on referrals and waiting times, more cooperation between services and for the government to lay out its plans in more detail.
“The PAC report presents a damning picture of the current state of mental health provision for children and young people across the country,” said NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney.
“Schools have a role to play. However, the current funding crisis in education makes it impossible to do so effectively. Cuts to education have decimated the pastoral support that schools can provide and make it increasingly difficult to provide personalised support.”
Anna Cole, parliamentary and inclusion specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders, agreed, adding: “Schools and colleges are already doing a great deal to support the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people but their budgets are under severe pressure and this is making it increasingly difficult to provide sufficient school-based pastoral support."