Psychologists are calling on Ofsted to add a new measure when inspecting schools – that of how well a school supports the mental health and wellbeing of its staff and pupils.
A briefing paper produced by the British Psychological Society (BPS) says now is the “ideal opportunity” for Ofsted to embed mental health and wellbeing at the heart of its inspections and guidance – as it currently undertakes a review of its school inspection framework.
BPS director of policy and communications Kathryn Scott said: “One of the things we’d like to see is that for a school to be 'outstanding', all members of staff should be able to identify when a child is struggling [with mental health] and where to send them for support.”
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The briefing paper, which was launched at a panel discussion staged by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Psychology at the House of Commons, states that mental health and psychological wellbeing in schools is “one of the most important issues facing society”.
It says that, in the last year, almost all teachers had taught a child they believed was experiencing anxiety, while 60 per cent had taught a child they believed was self-harming and just over 40 per cent had taught a child who they thought was a victim of cyber-bullying or who’d had suicidal thoughts.
The paper puts forward four key recommendations including that Ofsted’s draft framework and inspection handbook must be expanded to include a greater focus on mental health, and that schools must be provided with sufficient guidance and support on how to best meet pupils’ mental health needs.
Within those, it calls for specific references to mental health to be included in the grade descriptors for all four judgement areas, and that inspectors should be given training to enable them to recognise schools' provision of support for pupil and staff mental health and wellbeing.
An Ofsted spokesperson said the BPS had responded to its recent consultation on proposed changes to its framework in order to place less emphasis on exam data and more on a broader curriculum.
She added: “We agree that mental health and wellbeing are important issues, which is why children’s personal development is one of the four judgements we’re proposing under the new inspections.”
The panel discussion also heard how the DfE's target of having one mental health first-aider per school was not enough.