A government green paper on children and young people’s mental health, tackling internet safety and the impact of social media, will be published before Christmas.
In a response to a joint report on education and mental health from the education and health committees, the government today said it was “committed to the publication of a children and young people’s mental health green paper by the end of this year”, which would “address the interface” between internet use and mental health issues in young people.
“It is important that all children are taught about the risks of social media and the potential impact on their mental well-being,” the response said.
The paper will also have a preventative focus, tackling ways to prevent children from developing mental health problems and opening access to appropriate support where needed.
Matthew Dodd, the principal education officer at the National Children’s Bureau, said the upcoming green paper was one of the most important opportunities for improving mental health provision for young people, in a recent speech at a Westminster Education Forum on mental health.
It found that schools were struggling to provide time and resources for pupils’ well-being, and mental health services such as in-school counsellors were facing cutbacks. At the same time, it noted that half of all cases of mental illness start before the age of 15 and that one in 10 children aged between five and 16 has had a diagnosed mental disorder.
In January, prime minister Theresa May announced that every secondary school in England would get free mental health training and improved support from local health services, but schools were not allocated any additional funding to treat or refer children.
This was reflected in the joint report, which said the education and health committee members had “heard evidence of the adverse impact of funding pressures on mental health provision in schools”.
The report also recommended that as part of its commitment to make personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) compulsory in schools, the government should include social media education in the PSHE curriculum, to help pupils and their parents understand and manage the risks of internet use and make more informed choices.
The government response said that as well as pledging to address social media in the green paper, it would conduct an “engagement process” about the scope of PSHE and sex and relationships education by gathering evidence from schools and teachers, parents and pupils, and other experts.
Ofsted’s role was also criticised in the joint report, with inspectors blamed for not giving enough attention to the personal development and well-being criteria in the inspection framework.
A response statement from Ofsted, also published today, stressed that “the overall effectiveness of a school is likely to be inadequate if personal development behaviour and welfare, or any of the other core areas, is judged inadequate”.
It added: “Pupils’ mental health and well-being are also relevant to consideration of the suitability of a school’s curriculum, within the assessment of leadership and management.
“Inspectors will consider whether the curriculum also contributes well to pupils’ behaviour and welfare, including their physical, mental and personal well-being, safety and spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.”