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Schools: Mental Health

Question for Department for Education

UIN HL6836, tabled on 14 July 2020

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of programmes in place to address mental health issues in primary and post-primary schools.

Answered on

28 July 2020

There are a wide range of evidence-based programmes and interventions available for schools to use to support the mental health and wellbeing of their pupils. Schools should choose how best to support their pupils depending on local needs and context and reference to the evidence base.

The department-funded ‘Supporting Mental Health in Schools and Colleges’ survey in the academic year 2016-17 found that schools already have a wide range of provision on offer. For example, 61% provided school counselling, 70% had support programmes for specific groups of pupils and 53% offered peer support or mentoring. The department’s School Snapshot survey from summer 2019 found that 96% of schools provided support for pupils with identified mental health needs. We have included schools with sources of evidence-based wellbeing activities as part of our guidance on providing education remotely and as pupils return to school so that they can continue to do this.

In order to improve the evidence base available to schools, the department is funding a large-scale programme of randomised controlled trials of school based mental health and wellbeing interventions. The aim of the ‘Education for Wellbeing’ programme is to provide evidence on what works to support children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing and how it can be delivered effectively in a school setting. The programme consists of 2 large trials, and there will be around 350 participating schools by the end of the project in 2021, making this one of the largest studies in the world of its kind.

The department has also published detailed plans for all children and young people to return to full-time education from September. The guidance highlights the particular need to focus on pastoral support and mental wellbeing as a central part of what schools provide, in order to re-engage them and rebuild social interaction with their friends and teachers. This will involve curriculum provision as well as extra-curricular and pastoral support, and our recently published relationships, sex and health education training module will support teachers with preparation to deliver content on mental health and wellbeing. The guidance for schools is available here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/schools-and-colleges-to-reopen-in-full-in-september.

The department in collaboration with Public Health England and NHS England, delivered 2 webinars in July to provide further mental health support. The first webinar was for schools and colleges to support teachers in promoting and supporting the mental wellbeing of children and young people during the COVID-19 outbreak. The second event was for stakeholders across the local system to support strengthening of local partnerships to further support children and young people’s mental health as they return to school. We had around 10,000 sign up to the first webinar and around 1,300 to the second, and they are now available online for wider use.

We also remain committed to implementing the core proposals set out in response to the consultation on ‘Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision: A Green Paper’. Part of that commitment includes establishing new Mental Health Support Teams (MHSTs) in 20-25% of the country by 2023, as part of the additional support for children and young people’s mental health in the NHS Long Term Plan, and we are ahead of trajectory to achieving this. Where already established, MHSTs are adapting their services to continue supporting children and young people remotely during the COVID-19 outbreak. The green paper is available here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/transforming-children-and-young-peoples-mental-health-provision-a-green-paper.

The National Institute for Health Research and Health Services & Delivery Research Policy Research Programme programmes have jointly commissioned Birmingham, RAND and Cambridge Evaluation Centre and the Policy Innovation and Evaluation Research Unit to carry out a robust and independent evaluation of the implementation of core proposals within the ‘Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision: A Green Paper’. The protocol for this evaluation was published in October 2019 and is available here:
https://fundingawards.nihr.ac.uk/award/16/138/31.

Evaluation fieldwork was paused due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Future plans for the evaluation are currently being reviewed to account for impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak on fieldwork, and any revisions will be included in an updated evaluation protocol.