Almost half of teachers have taught a child they believed to be having suicidal thoughts, a new survey has revealed, while the majority have witnessed a rise in the number of kids presenting with mental health issues in their classrooms.
The survey of 6,719 UK teachers by charity YoungMinds revealed that 95 per cent of teachers had taught a child who they thought was experiencing anxiety, while 60 per cent had a student in their class they believed was self-harming.
It comes one day after young people delivered an open letter to Ofsted’s Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman, highlighting “a mental health crisis in our classrooms” and a need for greater focus on student wellbeing.
Teachers who responded to the survey said they spent an average of 4.5 hours every week responding to concerns around their students’ wellbeing or mental health.
The overwhelming majority think the education system doesn’t provide sufficient resources or recognition for schools to allow them to prioritise wellbeing, with more than nine in 10 teachers (93 per cent) agreeing the education system places more focus on academic performance than kids’ wellbeing.
In addition, 86 per cent saying the Ofsted framework, which is due to be reviewed next year, should be revised to focus more on wellbeing.
Emma Thomas, chief executive of YoungMinds, said the survey’s results are indicative that mental health is becoming a more and more prominent issue in classrooms across the UK.
“While schools shouldn’t be expected to do the job of specialist mental health services, they have an important role to play in promoting wellbeing and intervening quickly when problems first emerge,” she said.
“Many schools and teachers do amazing work in this area, but, sadly, the current education system doesn’t place enough value on this. And so when schools have to make difficult decisions about how to spend their limited budgets, it can be hard for them to make wellbeing a priority.”
Part of the open letter delivered to Amanda Spielman on 1 November, and signed by more than 20,000 people, reads: “We very much welcome your recent announcement that the new inspection framework will no longer focus on exam results and grades. But we urge you to build on this by ensuring that wellbeing is at its heart.”
Thomas welcomed the government’s plans to introduce mental health support teams in schools and added that a focus on wellbeing in Relationship and Sex Education lessons are very welcome.
“But promoting wellbeing isn’t just about one lesson or one member of staff,” she added.
“That’s why we hope Ofsted will build on their recent announcement that they will no longer focus on grades in inspections by guaranteeing that the new framework will have a far greater emphasis on wellbeing.”
Useful websites and helplines:
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
- The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: email@example.com
- Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0300 5000 927 (open Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on www.rethink.org.