Mental health

Solutions to the mental health crisis can’t wait another day

A second report from the Coalition for Youth Mental Health in Schools shows rues a lack of progress and makes the urgency of action clear, say Erin Docherty and Gavin English

A second report from the Coalition for Youth Mental Health in Schools shows rues a lack of progress and makes the urgency of action clear, say Erin Docherty and Gavin English

13 Dec 2023, 5:00

In recent years, much has been made of the deep divides within our education system. As inequality rises and teachers leave the jobs they love in search of fairer pay and conditions, onlookers have been quick to assume that pupils and staff in state and independent schools live separate lives, with little in the way of common experience or expertise, to the detriment of both sectors.

But since the start of the pandemic, two things have become increasingly clear to staff and pupils. First, there are experiences that affect children across all sections of society, and the unfolding youth mental health crisis is a grim and growing part of this picture. Second, schools in both sectors are developing solutions to the crisis from which others can learn. With children waiting up to 21 weeks for a CAMHS appointment as case numbers soar, it is clear that the system is at breaking point.

Since our initial intervention in 2021, the Coalition for Youth Mental Health in Schools – a group of schools from across the state and independent sectors – has continued to raise awareness of the rising number of young people with diagnosed mental health conditions in our schools. Over the past two years, we have welcomed more partners and uncovered more best practice along the way. Today we have published a new report, Solutions for a crisis, that tries to get to the heart of how schools are tackling this problem.

From school design to wellbeing supervisors, and from student voice surveys to a mental health curriculum, we are proud of  the education sector’s response to the crisis. But we are also alarmed by the lengths to which staff and trusts are forced to go in order to ensure that schools remain places where students feel safe, supported and confident to be the best versions of themselves.

Our first report called for a stronger government response to the youth mental health crisis. Two years on, this new report shines a light on the tireless work that schools have undertaken to meet the shortfall in child mental health provision while they go on waiting for that response. In the absence of decisive steps from policymakers, schools across the education sector have shared best practice with one another and we believe that this work has the power to improve mental health outcomes for all children.

Schools are places of learning, not clinical facilities

We champion the potential of partnerships between the state and independent sectors to provide support to students struggling with their mental health. Deep within the ethos of our independent school partners is a belief in service, and we take pride in their efforts to support a wider array of children than many thought possible. Likewise, it is in the DNA of our multi-academy trust members to be generous in sharing best practice among and between schools.

However, the successes that coalition members have had should not mask the urgent need for the government to guarantee adequate mental health provision for all children. It feels astonishing to have to restate this, but access to counselling in school should in no way preclude access to CAMHS outside school. Schools are places of learning, not clinical facilities.

To make matters worse, the unheralded pastoral teams that undertake so much of the vital work on children’s mental health are being forced to give more and more while getting less and less as schools scramble to save money. Asking these expert practitioners to hold back the rising tide with minimal external support leaves staff at risk of burnout and children with often profound needs at the mercy of yet another postcode lottery.

What we need now is a commensurate response from policymakers to ensure that the best practice we are delighted to showcase is available to all schools, and that all children can access a minimum level of mental health support irrespective of their circumstances. Until that happens, the mental health crisis affecting our young people will roll on and on. None of us should be comfortable with that.

The full report, Solutions for a crisis, is available here

Latest education roles from

Procurement Officer

Procurement Officer

RNN Group

Director of Marketing and Student Recruitment

Director of Marketing and Student Recruitment

Barnet and Southgate College

Professional Practice (TLA) Lead

Professional Practice (TLA) Lead

RNN Group

Health & Care Coordinator

Health & Care Coordinator

MidKent College

HR Assistant

HR Assistant

MidKent College

Principal, Cedar Mount Academy Bright Futures Educational Trust

Principal, Cedar Mount Academy Bright Futures Educational Trust

Satis Education

Sponsored posts

Sponsored post

Navigating NPQ Funding Cuts: Discover Leader Apprenticeships with NPQs

Recent cuts to NPQ funding, as reported by Schools Week, mean 14,000 schools previously eligible for scholarships now face...

SWAdvertorial
Sponsored post

How do you tackle the MIS dilemma?

With good planning, attention to detail, and clear communication, switching MIS can be a smooth and straightforward process, but...

SWAdvertorial
Sponsored post

How can we prepare learners for their future in an ever-changing world?

By focusing their curriculums on transferable skills, digital skills, and sustainability, schools and colleges can be confident that learners...

SWAdvertorial
Sponsored post

Inspiring Education Leaders for 10 Years

The 10th Inspiring Leadership Conference is to be held on 13 and 14 June 2024 at the ICC in...

SWAdvertorial

More from this theme

Mental health

Study: Access to school counselling would ‘pay for itself’ in 10 years

Counselling could help 'missing middle' of children who don't meet mental health treatment thresholds, Public First study says

Samantha Booth
Mental health

‘Stark gap’ between teacher and leader wellbeing

Survey finds teachers twice as likely as leaders to report feeling 'physically and mentally' unwell

Freddie Whittaker
Mental health

32,000 children wait at least 2 years for mental health treatment

Children's commissioner calls for early intervention as pupils wait 'significant portion of their young lives' for support

Freddie Whittaker
Mental health

Mental health: Four-week CAMHS wait pledge up in the air

Consultation on plans warned of 'unintended consequences'

Samantha Booth

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *