Mental health services in schools are so poor that staff resort to calling the emergency services to get treatment for pupils, headteachers have said.
Schools are even being asked to pay for services to support vulnerable students that should be provided by health or other services, headteachers have said in submissions to the Education Select Committee.
The Association of School and College Leaders, which represents secondary school heads, told the committee’s inquiry into the mental health of looked after children: "Even in situations where a child needs immediate support (due to being a risk to themselves or others) Camhs (child adolescent and mental health services) may not be available.
"This means that schools and colleges are sometimes forced to either call the police or to send the child or young person to A&E to ensure they are seen by a properly trained mental health worker.
"There needs to be a much better system in place that can provide immediate support."
The claims come as the government is phasing in the replacement for statements of educational special needs, known as Educational Health Care Plans.
The government has said is ring-fencing £1.4bn for children's mental health.
The concerns over mental health services were shared by teaching union the NASUWT which wrote that schools were being asked to pay for NHS staff and educational psychologists to help assess children’s needs.
The NASUWT submission said: "Such practice is unacceptable... it is likely to lead to delay or even prevent children and young people with Send (special educational needs and disability) from receiving the support they need."
The NAHT evidence said there was “a need for increased secure funding for schools”.
“It is vital to carry out research into what proportion of a school’s budget is used to
provide health or social care services, or is spent on dealing with behaviours that result from a lack of preventative work in mental health,” it added.
The Department for Education has been approached for comment.