Commenting on Mind’s analysis of mental health support in secondary schools in England, Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:
“These findings confirm what NEU members are telling us about the seriousness of mental health issues for many young people and the urgency of putting wellbeing centre-stage during the whole of the next academic year. There is no quick fix here - we need a holistic approach to education recovery over the coming year because of the strong relationship between mental health and learning.
"It is concerning that so many young people in England have not been able to access mental health support – whether that is in school or through specialist mental health services. Boosting access to school counsellors and mental health support must be a priority for Government given the wealth of evidence about the impact of mental health on the ability to properly engage and thrive at school.
"It is quite obvious to anyone working in education that urgent investment is needed to support children’s mental health now. Demand is growing. The early support hubs being called for by Mind and Young Minds are something the Government should seriously consider in order to address this gap for young people and families. We need more counsellors in secondary schools, with time to support the young people who need it.
"Critically, Government must provide proper leadership and adequate investment for schools in this recovery phase ahead, so schools can address learning gaps and wellbeing and personalise learning in small groups. So far, the Government’s plans for recovery fall far well below the £15bn sum advised by Sir Kevan Collins, the former Education Recovery tsar, as essential to educational and economic recovery.
"Instead of assessing the investment needed, the Department for Education have chosen to push unhelpful and simplistic messages about school discipline as the panacea to responding to behavioural difficulties. This is not an evidence-led approach and won't help inequality gaps, or outcomes for children and young people with SEND, or reduce the racial disparities in exclusions.
"We agree with Mind that the prioritisation of academic achievement must not be at be at the expense of inclusion but shifting the culture of our system can only happen through national changes to education policy and to our school accountability systems. Kevan Collins has highlighted the importance of addressing the social and emotional development gap this year. Failing to adjust the national curriculum after Covid or to create additional time for teachers to take smaller classes will be damaging for many young people."