Children not learning due to mental health – fears for schools in bomshell survey

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A survey of more than 1,000 teachers, found 74 percent of teachers believe poor mental health support affects children’s ability to learn whilst almost two thirds of teachers say they deal with mental health issues in school every day. 

The survey, carried out by charity YoungMinds, found almost half of teachers (47 percent) said supporting the mental health of individual pupils, such as making adjustments, supporting young people in distress, or talking to them outside of lessons, takes time away from teaching the curriculum at least once a day.

More than a quarter (27 percent) said this happens several times a day.  

The research also showed that 63 percent of teachers think their students don’t get mental health support early enough, and 45 percent of teachers don’t feel confident that if they refer a young person for mental health support outside school they will get the right help. 

The research comes as official figures show that suicide rates among young people aged 15-19 in England rose by 35 percent from 2020 to 2021. Data from the Office for National Statistics shows that in 2020, 147 young people aged 15-19 in England took their own lives.

This rose to 198 in 2021, the highest number in over 30 years and the biggest jump for any age group.

NHS data also reveals 2022 is set to see the highest ever number of referrals to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). And the number of under 18s needing NHS treatment is 23 percent higher than at the same point last year, according to the latest NHS figure.

A total of 241,791 young people were referred to the NHS in the first three months of this year – already half the total figure referred to in the whole of last year. A large number are yet to be treated and remain on waiting lists.

YoungMinds believes many schools are picking up the pieces for overstretched services and they say young people are paying the price, with learning and prospects impacted.

Approximately four young people in every secondary school classroom now has a diagnosable mental health problem, YoungMinds research shows. 

Emma Thomas, Chief Executive of YoungMinds, said: “This cannot go on. Government must get a grip of the situation.”

“Young people are struggling to access the support they desperately need, and the dramatic rise in suicides is truly alarming. “

“We are calling for more resources for the NHS, so young people, particularly those in crisis, can access help quickly, and dedicated mental health support in every school. We want ring-fenced funding for schools so they can better support the thousands of young people who are struggling right now.” 

Nic Griffiths, Assistant Head, and safeguarding lead Upton Hall School, an alll girls secondary school in the Wirral, said: “The situation we are facing is not sustainable and it is way beyond our skills remit.”

“There is always a long queue outside my office now, girls with eating disorders, unable to sleep or with anxiety problems.”

“We regularly see fresh cuts on girls who have self harmed and we also have many children who now refuse to go to school due to anxiety. Many staff are frightened to get involved for fear of making it worse.”

“These are things that all secondary schools are now dealing with.” 

She added that her role was no longer recognisable from the teaching job she joined nearly twenty years ago: “I rarely use my teaching qualifications now and this is no longer the job I trained for 17 years ago due to the huge escalation in mental health issues, particularly since covid lockdowns.”

“Staff are doing their best, but they don’t feel skilled enough to deal with it. They have even become reluctant to cover topics that might be potentially triggering such as viruses in biology.”

She added: “The NHS hasn’t got enough in place to help all those who need help and everything we do is reactive. It’s no good teaching resilience in school. Our children became anxious about covid, anxious about climate, the implications of the war in Ukraine and the rising cost of living.”

They are increasingly exposed to things that make them more anxious. More and more young people are struggling, and becoming more unwell because they aren’t getting help early enough.  

“Everyone involved in caring for a young person with a mental health problem…is doing their best, but …None of us has the resources, the staff and the time we need to put the young person at the centre and support them in the right way.”

“The result is pupils missing lessons, falling behind and then staying away from school because they don’t think they can catch up. On some occasions my lessons have to be covered because a young person is in crisis and needs urgent medical assistance.”

“This means other pupils miss out on specialist teaching. Too much is expected of schools, and of teachers. We are doing our best but it can’t continue. We need the Government to make sure the right resources and systems are there to help us support our pupils.” 





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