POLITICS

Schools 'Will Lose Children's Mental Health Support', Say Headteachers

Parents have to pay for counsellors.

23/01/2017 20:43 | Updated 24 January 2017
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS via Getty Images
Education Secretary Justine Greening

Schools are cutting back on counsellors as a result of steep Government cuts, headteachers told MPs on Monday.

Slashed budgets will hit the most emotionally vulnerable pupils and those with special needs, they warned the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Unions revealed last week that schools in every constituency will lose money under Education Secretary Justine Greening’s new funding plans.

“We’re meant to be looking after the mental health of young people, but we’ve got no money to do that,” Liam Collins, the headteacher of Uplands Community College, East Sussex, said.

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As recently as January, Prime Minister Theresa May pledged to help children and teenagers with mental health problems.

She said she would support schools in dealing with anxiety and depression among their pupils.

But Collins said he now had to ask parents to fund any counselling for their children themselves, which created confidentiality issues.

“We’ve removed a whole pastoral layer and this is at a time when mental health of young people is such an important factor,” he said.

Stuart McLaughlin, headteacher of Bower Park Academy, Havering, East London, said: “I’ve got a part time family counsellor, he’s going to go. And I’ve got to lose the first aid officer that works at the school.”

And Kate Davis, headteacher of Darton College in Barnsley, Yorkshire, said children with special educational needs would also suffer as the school cut back on support staff.

Schools across the nation have faced a financial squeeze for the past few years, and the National Union of Teachers told HuffPost UK the most cash-strapped had hoped a new funding deal would be “an answer to their prayers”.

Instead there will be a “levelling down” of funding across the nation.

On Monday, McLaughlin told the PAC he had cut teaching “to the bare bones” and stripped back support staff, while Collins said he had to save money by cleaning the school less.

“We haven’t been able to upgrade the computers for three years... and of course they just grind to a halt,” Collins said.

He said the school could not afford textbooks or teacher training for the new GCSE and A-Level courses.

The new funding deal will cause per-pupil losses of more than £1,000 for schools in the worst hit areas, according to an analysis by six trade unions.

Permanent Secretary of the Department for Education (DfE) Jonathan Slater said the Government would keep an eye on schools in danger of cutting mental health support.

“We will monitor if schools are under threat and monitor if they are not getting the support they need”, he told the PAC.

 A DfE spokesperson said:

“School funding is at its highest level on record and will be over £40bn in 2016-17. Under the proposed national schools funding formula, more than half of England’s schools will receive a cash boost in 2018-19. This will help to create a system that funds schools according to the needs of their pupils rather than where they live. We have also announced further investment of £190million to provide more support to underperforming schools and ensure the number of good school places continues to rise.

“However, we recognise that schools are facing cost pressures, which is why we will continue to provide advice and support to help them use their funding in cost effective ways, including improving the way they buy goods and services, so‎ they get the best possible value for their pupils.”

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