Mental health teams overlook excluded pupils

A new government initiative to support pupils’ mental health seems to be overlooking many excluded children.

Research by the Anna Freud Centre and the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) shows that more than four in ten mental health “trailblazer” areas are not working with alternative provision schools, meaning some of the most vulnerable children could miss out.

The 82 trailblazers were the first to develop new mental health support teams, which work between schools and child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), offering support and treatment in schools.

The new teams were announced in 2018 as part of the government’s response to its own green paper on children and young people’s mental health.

In the response, the government said it was “committed to ensuring” the new teams reached “those most in need of support”, and said it “especially” wanted them to work with vulnerable children with “more limited contact with mainstream schools”.

“This might include alternative provision or special school pupils in contact with the criminal justice system,” the paper said.

However, freedom of information responses from 65 of the areas found that just 37 are working with alternative provision (AP) schools and one has plans to, while 27 are not working with AP schools at all. Even in areas where they are, most are only working with a single AP institution.

The research was done by the IntegratED programme, of which the Anna Freud Centre and CSJ are partners. The programme works to reduce preventable exclusions and improve the quality of education for children excluded from school.

“Given that the rate of pupils with identified social, emotional and mental health needs is 33 times higher in AP schools than mainstream schools, and the needs are more acute, we would like to see all mental health trailblazer areas developing a bespoke offer for children excluded from school,” said Cath Murray (pictured), programme lead at the CSJ.

A government spokesperson said: “Mental health support teams are designed to provide expert support for children and young people’s mental health needs in schools, colleges and other education settings, which may include alternative provision.

“They are being delivered as part of the wider expansion of mental health services in the NHS long term plan.”