The vast majority of staff working in UK schools (95%) have witnessed increased levels of pupil anxiety since the start of the school year, according to new research published by Place2Be and NAHT ahead of Children’s Mental Health Week.
A new poll of educational professionals, released today by Place2Be and NAHT, reveals the impact of the pandemic is still being felt in schools.
1,130 school leaders, teachers and other staff working in primary and secondary schools completed the poll. Those surveyed have seen an increased prevalence of other mental health issues among pupils this school year, including:
For staff working in secondary schools, 72% have noticed an increase in self-harm, 61% in suicidal thoughts, and 56% in eating difficulties among pupils.
Unfortunately, only 23% of staff said they had regularly been able to access specialist support for pupils with mental health needs, leaving a majority of children and young people struggling without access to the support they need.
School staff also highlighted the wider impact on many aspects of school life. A large majority said it has negatively affected:
Catherine Roche, Chief Executive of Place2Be, said: “As society tries to regain a sense of normality after two challenging years, we must remember that school leaders and staff remain on the frontline, coping with all the additional needs that pupils are bringing through their gates. We know that with the right embedded specialist support, schools can be a fantastic place to address issues early on and promote positive mental health. There has never been a more important time to ensure that schools, and therefore children, receive the support they deserve.”
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “The findings of this survey are truly shocking – but unfortunately, to anyone working in schools, they are not surprising. Our members consistently raise pupil mental health and wellbeing as one of their top priorities – they really are on the front line when it comes to identifying and supporting children and young people’s mental health needs.
“It’s crucial that when school staff identify a mental health need with a pupil they are able to get the specialist help that is required. But as our survey shows, very few school staff find they are able to access specialist support for pupils who need it in a timely way – and this is having a negative impact on pupils’ ability to engage in learning, as well as on school life and staffs’ own wellbeing.
“These shocking new stats should add real urgency to the call for additional resources to support the mental health and wellbeing of pupils. The government must ensure that every school has fully funded mental health support available for their pupils and it is essential that they increase the capacity of social care, health and other services to meet the growing demand and to reduce waiting times.”
This year’s Children’s Mental Health Week is supported by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery and The Beaverbrook Foundation.