Schools could face new mental health inspections

Ofsted announces plans for new joint inspections of services for children with mental ill health

Schools could face a new mental health inspection from Ofsted

Inspectors will be checking whether schools have systems in place to identify children whose mental health is deteriorating, under a new inspection regime.

Schools will be included in new joint area inspections which will examine how local services respond to children living with mental ill health.

The new checks will also assess whether schools make timely referrals to specialist mental health services.

The inspections will look at schools alongside the work of local authorities, police, youth offending teams and health professionals in six areas of the country.

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It was announced today that joint targeted area inspections (JTAI) – involving Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), HMI Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, and HMI Probation – will begin in September this year.

As part of the process, inspectors will carry out a “deep-dive inspection” of how agencies assess and support the mental health of children aged 10-15 who are subject to child-in-need or child-protection plans, or are a looked-after child.

Guidance published today says an education inspector will contact the schools of the children who have been selected for case tracking.

The inspector will discuss with staff what the school does to help the child and its involvement in multi-agency planning and support.

The process will also look at whether “schools have systems in place to help identify children whose mental health may be deteriorating or who are suffering mental ill health”.

And inspectors will check whether schools make “timely referrals to early help or specialist mental health services and to children’s social care when appropriate.” 

The JTAI inspection will also assess whether children receive the support they need from within the school or from external agencies.

Ofsted’s national director for social care, Yvette Stanley, said: “At a time when local authorities and their health partners are making difficult decisions about resources, it’s important that the needs of children with mental ill health are being met.

“We are all responsible for children’s mental health. We don’t expect frontline practitioners to diagnose conditions, but we do expect them to be able to identify concerns and to know where to turn to for advice and support.

“These inspections will help us to see where children’s mental health needs are being met and where things need to improve.”

The findings from each of the six area inspections will be published in a letter to local partnerships, setting out what they are doing well and what they need to do to improve.

Ofsted said that when all six inspections are complete, an overview report will be published to highlight "learning and good practice" on children living with mental ill health.

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