Every secondary school in England will get free mental health training and improved support from local health services, the prime minister has announced today.
In a speech at the Charity Commission this morning, Theresa May said a new approach to tackling mental health problems would start with ensuring that children and young people “get the help and support they need and deserve”.
The government says mental health training will be delivered by Mental Health First Aid UK to staff in a third of secondary schools this year.
This starts with ensuring that children and young people get the help and support they need and deserve
The remaining two-thirds of secondary schools will be offered this training in the following two years.
It is hoped that the additional training will make school staff better at spotting signs of mental health problems in pupils.
May said a plan to transform mental health services should start “not in our hospitals, but in our classrooms, at work and in our communities”.
“This starts with ensuring that children and young people get the help and support they need and deserve – because we know that mental illness too often starts in childhood and that when left untreated, can blight lives, and become entrenched.”
Writing in The Times today, the education secretary Justine Greening said the government also wanted to see schools get “the best support” from their local mental health services, “so children needing help can get the right treatment as quickly as possible”.
“This will be backed up by our health and education watchdogs, the Care Quality Commission and Ofsted,” she said.
It will include new trials to strengthen links between schools and local NHS mental health staff.
Ministers have also pledged a review of child and adolescent mental health services across the country, which will take place in the spring and inform a new strategy due to launch later this year.
It follows calls from the former health minister Norman Lamb for a mental health lead in every school.
The Education Policy Institute’s independent commission on children and young people’s mental health, led by Lamb, last year also demanded evidence-based training for teachers and for schools to be inspected on pupil well-being.
In its report Time to deliver, the commission called for a ‘prime minister’s challenge on children’s mental health’, to also include statutory PSHE.
It also comes after a report by the Prince’s Trust found that 37 per cent of young people feel stressed about how to cope at work or school.
Russell Hobby, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, has welcomed the focus on children’s mental wellbeing, but said it would “fall short” without proper funding, especially in the face of cuts to school budgets.
“Just as we are becoming more aware of children’s mental health issues the resources are being taken away.
“School budgets are being cut by £3 billion so it will become increasingly difficult to fund in-school care for children unless these cuts are reversed immediately.”
Joint research by the NAHT and mental health charity Place2Be reveals seven out of ten school leaders found funding was the “chief barrier to putting in place professional mental health support for pupils”.
Six in ten said the “lack of services or qualified professionals locally” was a “significant barrier”.