As nine out of 10 school staff feel that children’s education is suffering due to a lack of mental health support, what can be done to better support the next generation?
In research conducted by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), it was found that nine out of 10 school staff felt that children and young people’s education is suffering due to a lack of mental health support.
Surveying school staff in England, 64% of respondents shared that they felt their school didn’t offer enough mental health support to students. Furthermore, while 95% of respondents who worked at schools offering counselling to students reported that demand for these services had increased since the pandemic, just 12% shared that funding had increased, and 20% said that it had actually decreased.
Simon Grieves is the headteacher at Chapel-en-le-Frith High School, in Derbyshire, and this trend is something that he has seen first-hand.
"As we recover from the pandemic, we have seen a significant increase in demand for counselling and at the same time it has become harder to access mental health support outside of school,” Simon shares. “We strongly believe that having easily accessible counselling available in school supports good mental wellbeing. It helps more students continue to access school who might otherwise refuse or opt for elective home education.
"Good mental health supports good progress in lessons and ultimately good examination outcomes. In my view, every child should have access to counselling in school, in the same way that every child has a statutory right to career support. Funding to make this possible should be provided.”
In the survey, 96% of respondents reported that they believe funding for mental health provisions for students should come from the government, and 89% said that additional funding for mental health provisions in schools should be ringfenced, meaning that schools can buy in services.
Currently, many schools in England are forced to use alternative methods to pay for counselling services, with 44% of respondents sharing that their school funds the counselling with the money that comes from pupil premium, and 22% shared that it is funded by the Covid-19 catch-up premium.
In response to this, the BACP is campaigning for the government to fund a paid school counsellor in every secondary school, academy, and further education college in England – England currently being the only country in the UK not to have adopted this model.
“It’s horrifying to see the impact that lack of mental health support is having on children and young people's lives, education and future prospects,” Jo Holmes, BACP’s children, young people and families lead, said.
“Schools are facing an immensely difficult situation as they desperately try to meet the mental health needs of their students, often on a shoestring budget. Our survey shows that nearly all schools that offer counselling are facing a rise in demand for these services since the start of the pandemic. It’s unacceptable that they’re not receiving additional funding or resources.”
Jo believes that a government-funded school counselling service in England would help to reduce the pressure on NHS services, and would also ensure that those who can’t access these services receive the early support that they so vitally need – which, in turn, will have a positive impact on their education and future prospects.
“We know there are trained children and young people counsellors who have capacity to work in these roles within schools. Funding is urgently needed to provide more school counsellors to offer life-changing support for young people in need.”
To find out more about the BACP and their campaign, visit bacp.co.uk