One primary head: ‘I can't think of a single successful Camhs referral in years’

The system is failing our most vulnerable and any politician with a smidgen of moral purpose has to do something, writes one high-profile primary headteacher

Brian Walton

Camhs referral

I wrote an email this week to other agencies asking at what point are we going to say “this meets the threshold?” Because all I seem to hear in 2019 is “it won’t meet the threshold”.

I have to wonder how desperate the social care system must be when I can’t get support for families frantically trying to keep their heads above the rising waters of total breakdown.

The situation is so desperate that I cannot think of a successful Camhs referral in years. What does that say about the problem? There is so much support needed and the service just comes across as the Promised Land we can never quite get to.

This has become a common and desperate theme for many headteachers. The need has risen and the support has disappeared, and with it the expertise. Therefore, schools are trying to meet that need with a budget at breaking point and accountability waving at you through the broken ceiling.

I have sat through hour after hour of meetings post-Laming Report and safeguarding in schools is, without doubt, a number one priority. We are scrutinised and terrified by it – and yet here we go again. Another week and another report about the true state of services needed to support our most vulnerable.

Last time a report made it clear that austerity had devastated many vital services and there was a crisis, there was a government spokesperson telling us how more than ever was being invested in these services and how teachers would be trained to recognise the signs (trust us – we recognise the signs). 

Along with the ever-growing list of things that schools need support for (such as knife crime), we were told they would get the support they needed to tackle this problem. But, yet again, here is another damning report. 

This government’s record well and truly sucks. It beggars belief that any politician with the power to make the difference needed can sleep at night.

As school leaders, we may be bleating on but this is crisis-point-plus. The system is failing our most vulnerable and anyone with a smidgen of moral purpose has to do something as a matter of urgency.

I gave a talk on inclusion this week to headteachers in another local authority and stayed on to listen to two heads talk about what they had done to make their budgets balance.

Cutting subjects and staff, changing the curriculum, analysing every ounce of electricity and spend – and still, exclusions rise and applications for education, health and care plans increase, and the high needs budget for children with special educational needs and disability is overspent. Is it any wonder that we have a generation of young people starting to look to the adults in despair?

So, I await the comment from Damian Hinds et al and expect them to say that more has been invested in X and Y. There are more trained people to offer families bespoke this and targeted that. Waiting lists are down, or something.

It is absolutely desperate out there and I cannot understand why everyone sees it except the people who can do something about it. I have no confidence whatsoever that anything is going to change. I just wait for the next report in four weeks’ time to make me feel sick to my core.

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Brian Walton

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