Pupils’ mental health top concern for school leaders, report finds

Pupils’ mental health is the most worrying issue for school leaders and should serve as a “wake-up call to society”.

A report by school support company The Key suggests two thirds of headteachers and school leaders nationally are most worried about mental health, followed by domestic violence, with 58 per cent citing it as a top concern.

More than 1,000 leaders were surveyed as part of The Key’s annual State of Education report.

School leaders were asked to select which, out of a possible 14, health and safeguarding issues were concerning them.

It is not just a concern for their pupils either. More than three in five school leaders told the survey their mental health has been negatively affected by their role, and 78 per cent said the same about their family life.

Schools Week reported in February that no data on young people’s mental health had been collected by the government since 2004.

The health select committee raised serious concerns about the missing data in its November report on “Children’s and adolescents’ mental health and CAMHS [Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services]”.

Former minister of state for care and support Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat MP, told Schools Week he had secured money to carry out a new mental health prevalence survey, citing anecdotal evidence that mental health disorders had increased. He said the report would likely be published in 2017.

In 2004, one in ten children had a mental health problem, with most having emotional and/or conduct disorders.

Domestic violence is more of a concern for primary school leaders, where 70 per cent said it is one of their concerns.

School leaders in London are more concerned about gangs and youth violence (32 per cent), female genital mutilation (27 per cent) and radicalisation (26 per cent) than those in any other region, with these issues ranking 6th, 8th and 9th respectively.

In response to the findings, Fergal Roche, The Key’s chief executive, said: “Such widespread concern among school leaders about pupils’ wellbeing should be a wake-up call to society as a whole.

“Mental health issues, domestic violence, bullying and drugs have implications that reach far beyond the school gates, and can have a serious impact on the future prospects of those children affected. The level of concern about pupils’ mental health is particularly worrying given the recent history of cuts to mental health services.”

The Key’s safeguarding researcher Fern Barber said: “I find school leaders’ high levels of concern about mental health and domestic violence particularly worrying.

“We cannot expect school staff to play the role of mental health professionals, social workers or police officers, but pupils need to feel safe and happy in order to learn. Many schools are doing great work in putting pupil wellbeing initiatives in place, but they cannot protect children alone.”

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