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Mental health main concern of school heads

Over two thirds of head teachers cite pupil mental health as biggest worry

Mark Gould

Monday, 20 July 2015

Mental health, domestic violence, bullying and obesity top the list of pupil health and safeguarding concerns for schools across England, a survey of 1,180 head teachers suggests.

The survey by school management support service the Key, reveals that the most concerning pupil health and safeguarding issues for head teachers and other school leaders in England are:

  • Mental health (67%)
  • Domestic violence (58%)
  • Cyber bullying (55%)
  • Bullying (38%)
  • Obesity (36%)
  • Drugs (23%)
  • Sexting (21%)
  • Child sexual exploitation (20%)
  • Gangs and youth violence (13%)
  • Female genital mutilation (FGM) (11%)

The survey identifies the scale of the challenge facing the newly established Child Protection Taskforce as schools increasingly seek to employ their own counsellors or draw on voluntary services to tackle wide-ranging pupil wellbeing issues.

The Key chief executive Fergal Roche said: “Such widespread concern among school leaders about pupils’ wellbeing should be a wake-up call to society as a whole. Mental health issues, domestic violence, bullying and drugs have implications that reach far beyond the school gates, and can have a serious impact on the future prospects of those children affected. The level of concern about pupils’ mental health is particularly worrying given the recent history of cuts to mental health services.”

The new Child Protection Taskforce, is intended to drive reforms to protect the most vulnerable children in society and give them the opportunity to succeed.

Acknowledging this move to improve inter-agency working, Roche commented: “In a previous survey The Key, almost three-quarters of school leaders who responded said they had made a referral to children’s social care during their career, and more than half thought that the statutory safeguarding guidance introduced last April hasn’t helped to reduce bureaucracy. With more schools telling us that they are employing their own counsellors and the high levels of concern revealed in our pupil wellbeing report, it’s clear we need to ensure that school leaders can access the right skills and resources to effectively support the children and young people in their care.”

The Department of Health says it has increased funding and is introducing treatment targets so patients get the care they need when they need it. It said funding for mental health increased between 2013-14 and 2014-15 by £300m to £11.7bn

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