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Schools: Mental Health Services

Question for Department for Education

UIN 104035, tabled on 15 October 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the prevalence of state schools paying for externally provided mental health support for students.

Answered on

21 October 2020

The department does not collect central information on the details of school expenditure, including whether they pay for externally provided mental health support for students. Schools and colleges have the freedom to decide what support to offer pupils based on their particular needs, drawing on evidence available on effective practice.

We are currently providing the biggest increase to schools funding in a decade. School budgets are rising by £2.6 billion in the 2020-21 financial year, £4.8 billion in the 2021-22 financial year and £7.1 billion in the 2022-23 financial year, compared to the 2019-20 financial year. We recognise that local authorities’ costs in providing for those with the most complex special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) have increased. We have increased high needs funding for children and young people with the most complex SEND, from £5 billion in 2013 to over £7 billion in 2020-21 financial year, and it will continue to rise to £8 billion in the 2021-22 financial year. This increase means that in the 2021-22 financial year, every local authority will attract an increase of at least 8% per head of population, with some authorities seeing increases of up to 12%.

Schools are best placed to make decisions on how best to spend their funding to support their pupils, and we do not set restrictions on how much is spent on mental health provision. We know that there has been an increased need to focus on mental health and wellbeing as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Getting children and young people back into school and college is key to their wellbeing. We have worked hard to ensure that all pupils and learners were able to return to a full high-quality education programme in September. Our £1 billion COVID-19 catch-up package, with £650 million shared across schools over the 2020/21 academic year, is supporting education settings to put the right catch-up and pastoral support in place.

To ensure that staff were equipped to support wellbeing as children and young people returned to schools and colleges, we made it a central part of our guidance both on remote education and on the return to school. We supported this with a range of training and materials, including webinars which have been accessed by thousands of education staff and accelerating training on how to teach about mental health as part of the new relationships, sex and health curriculum, so that all pupils can benefit from this long-term requirement.

To continue this support we have invested in £8 million in the Wellbeing for Education Return programme, which will provide schools and colleges all over England with the knowledge and practical skills they need to support teachers, students and parents, to help improve how they respond to the emotional impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. The programme is funding expert advisers in every area of England to train and support schools and colleges during the autumn and spring terms. More information about the programme is available here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/wellbeing-for-education-return-grant-s31-grant-determination-letter.

Of course, schools and colleges are not mental health professionals, so access to specialist mental health support is more important than ever during the COVID-19 outbreak. All NHS mental health trusts have ensured that there are 24/7 open access telephone lines to support people of all ages. We have also provided £9.2 million of additional funding for mental health charities, including charities such as Young Minds to support adults and children struggling with their mental wellbeing during this time.

To increase support further in the long term, we remain committed to our joint green paper delivery programme with the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England, including introducing new mental health support teams linked to schools and colleges, providing training for senior mental health leads in schools and colleges, and testing approaches to faster access to NHS specialist support.