Teachers and pupils let down as mental health 'crisis' grips schools, poll shows

Changes to the curriculum and to exams are exacerbating mental health problems in schools, say staff

Hélène Mulholland

Forcing teachers to take part in wellbeing activities actually harms their wellbeing, warns Jude Brady

Teachers and pupils with mental healthcare needs are being let down by schools, according to a poll of school staff.

The majority of respondents (58 per cent) said a mental health "crisis" has taken hold in schools, fuelled by changes to exams and the curriculum.

Most (61 per cent) felt that the current schools system fails to give teachers with mental healthcare needs the right support, and an even greater proportion (67 per cent) said the same is true for pupils. 

The survey also showed a widely-held belief (57 per cent) that the Department for Education fails to understand the scale of the mental health problems gripping schools.

The online survey was conducted in February and March and involved 390 schools-based registrants due to attend The Academies Show next week, a free event at which Tes is a media partner and which is aimed at school managers and leaders.

Around half of respondents said changes to GCSE and A levels, and to the school curriculum, were exacerbating mental health problems.

Four in five respondents who took part in the  survey were members of senior leadership and management teams.

Schools 'like exam factories'

The findings echo concerns among classroom teaching unions, which warn of the toll that pressure at school is taking on teachers and pupils alike.

In a recent survey by the NEU teaching union, almost half (49 per cent) of education staff reported that secondary school pupils have been suicidal because of the stress they are under. 

Meanwhile, almost two-thirds (65 per cent) of teachers say that their job has adversely affected their mental health, according to a NASUWT survey published last month. This poll prompted the union's general secretary, Chris Keates, to say that too many school leaders are “failing to exercise their duty of care".

Commenting on the Academies Show polling, NEU assistant general secretary Rosamund McNeil said the level of teachers and young people experiencing mental health problems in school and the lack of support are "unacceptable".

She said: “Inadequate school funding, cuts to services, a lack of school capacity and government education policies are preventing children and young people getting the right support."

"It is urgent the Department for Education addresses the mental health crisis for young people and admits that turning schools into exam factories only contributes to stress and anxiety.”

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