On Tuesday, the Health and Education select committees held a joint session to take evidence from experts on the role of education in children and young people’s mental health. One of these experts was Professor Dame Sue Bailey, who co-chairs Healthy MindED – the first schools-led commission into pupils’ mental health, launched by SCHOOLS NorthEast at our Summit in October.
Professor Bailey informed the committee of the innovative approach that schools in our region are taking to address the worrying decline in pupils’ mental health and wellbeing, through the work of the commission. MPs showed a great deal of interest in the collective approach that North East schools are taking to address a shared problem.
Also giving evidence were Kate Fallon from the Association of Educational Psychologists (based in Durham), Emily Frith from the Education Policy Institute and Sarah Brennan from the charity Young Minds.
Some of the key themes that emerged were:
- For schools to deal with mental health effectively, strong leadership is needed from the SLT and it should be incorporated into the ethos of the school – Professor Bailey said that head teachers should be given the autonomy to decide on what is appropriate based on the needs of their school.
- Mental health can be taught and should be embedded across the curriculum.
- Primaries are often better equipped to deal with pupil mental health because of a greater emphasis on childhood development in teacher training.
- Schools should be careful not to pick one intervention as the solution to all mental health issues – schools should conduct audits to understand their needs and identify an appropriate range of interventions.
- There was disagreement over whether Ofsted should only give Outstanding grades to schools that deal effectively with the mental health of their pupils. Whilst this would be a signal to schools that wellbeing is part of their job, Ofsted are not necessarily best-placed to make this assessment.
- A universal, whole-school approach is the most effective for schools to promote positive mental health and wellbeing.
- There is evidence to suggest that high stakes assessment have a negative impact on children and young people’s mental health.
- The growing autonomy of schools has caused some issues for mental health provision – particularly for educational psychology services.
The committee also heard from another panel consisting of John Ivens, head of a hospital school in London, Siobhan Collingwood, head of a primary school in Morecambe and Zoe Brownlie from the Sheffield CAMHS service. In this session, delegates heard that some pupils end up on 40-week waiting lists after their schools have referred them, that school budget cuts are having a “significant impact” on mental health provision and that the new primary curriculum is making it increasingly difficult to teach about wellbeing.
Professor Bailey is also Chair of the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Commission (CYPMHC), which is a coalition of groups working to improve the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people.
The Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition (CYPMHC) want to find out from schools whether they agree with the following definition of a whole school approach? If not, can you share your views or your own definition?
‘It is an organizational or whole systems approach with the aim of integrating health and well-being within the ethos, culture, routine life and core business of the school setting.’
CYPMHC and Public Health England developed a framework to help schools implement a whole school approach. They consulted with some schools and public health people at the time, and came up with 8 key principles that need to be put in place – these are based on the 10 key principles in the old Healthy Schools Standard.
Do you agree with the 8 key principles? CYPMHC appreciates that funding, staffing, counselling and other support within the school and the community all impact on this, but do you agree in principle?
Please share any thoughts with Paula Lavis, the Coalition co-ordinator and Policy Lead, by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org