Less than a quarter of teachers are confident they could get timely help for pupils suffering from mental health problems, a survey has found.
Nearly half (46 per cent) of the more than 2,000 participants in the NASUWT teaching union poll said they had never received any training on children’s mental health.
The results highlighted the scale of mental health difficulties teachers are seeing in school.
A total of 98 per cent of teachers said there were pupils they come into contact with who they believe are experiencing mental health problems.
Nearly two thirds (64 per cent) said they knew of pupils who were self-harming, 91 per cent knew of pupils experiencing anxiety or panic attacks, while 49 per cent knew of some with eating disorders.
The survey showed that 89 per cent of teachers said such issues meant pupils had difficulty concentrating in class, while 84 per cent believed the pressure of the exam/testing system is creating or contributing to their pupils’ mental health problems.
But while more than half (54 per cent) of teachers said they were fairly confident they would recognise the signs of a possible mental health problem in their pupils, less than a quarter (24 per cent) were very or fairly confident they would be able to get timely support from expert services.
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “Teachers and school leaders take very seriously their duty of care to their students and it is clear there is a great deal of concern in the profession about the gulf in the availability of expert physiological support and counselling for pupils with mental health needs.”
She added that, despite prime minister Theresa May’s pledge earlier this year to improve mental health support for pupils, cuts to budgets and services in councils, health and education services “have all taken a heavy toll on the support available”.
She called on the prime minister to “urgently act” to improve expert provision for children.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are investing a record £1.4 billion to ensure all children get the help and support they need. We are strengthening the links between schools and NHS mental health staff and later this year will publish proposals for further improving services and preventative work.”
She added it had funded the PSHE Association to provide guidance on teaching about mental health, and had announced plans for every secondary school to be offered specialist first aid training in that area.
“We trust teachers to deliver assessment in a sensible manner that will not create stress among children,” she said.