The Education Policy Institute has examined aspects of mental health among secondary age children and linked these to social, demographic and other key factors and influencers.
Recommendations relevant to schools and colleges:
A post-pandemic wellbeing fund is needed to enable schools to deliver additional support over the coming years, such as hiring additional staff to deliver mental health support, running interventions, improving links with CAMHS and training teachers. This would help mitigate some of the damage caused by the pandemic.
Schools should build on existing mental health content in the Health Education and Relationships and Sex Education curriculum. This should help young people to understand how different characteristics, identities, and backgrounds, and existing stereotypes around these, can affect their mental and emotional health, including beliefs about themselves.
Schools should promote evidence-based strategies to support mental health and pathways to access different types of support should be clearly laid out. Schools should engage with parents and carers to ensure they are equipped with the same knowledge. Where relevant, schools should be encouraged to work with external organisations with expertise in this area to enhance delivery.
Improve the capacity of school leaders and teachers to support children with mental and emotional health needs. School leaders should be encouraged to spend time in alternative provision (AP) settings as part of ongoing CPD or prior to entering into a leadership role.
Local Mental Health Support Teams, currently being piloted in a number of areas, should be required to deliver training to school staff to ensure that mental health support is embedded across the school community. Schools are the most important, non-stigmatised setting where young people can seek advice and support, and policymakers must ensure leaders and teachers are equipped to offer it.
There should be an evidence-based policy to prevent and tackle bullying with clear plans for funding, delivery and accountability. This could involve more evidence-based guidance from DfE for schools on preventing and tackling bullying – guidance that should be statutory to comply with Equalities legislation when bullying is based on protected characteristics, such as race, gender or (dis)ability – and/or changes to Ofsted’s inspection framework.