Financial pressures are the reason for this shortcoming, according to a joint inquiry into children and young people’s mental health, published on Tuesday 2 May by the Health and Education Committees.
“With half of all mental illness starting before the age of 15, it is a false economy to cut services for children and young people that could help to improve wellbeing, build resilience and provide early intervention,” the report states.
In 2015 the Government announced £1.25bn in extra funding for young people’s
mental health. However, the report states that as schools’ funding cut has been, an increasing number are cutting back on mental health services such as in-school counsellors.
“Schools and colleges have a front line role in tackling mental ill health and promoting well-being among children and young people,” said MP Neil Carmichael, chair of the House of Commons Education Committee.
“We have heard, however, that financial pressures are restricting their ability to run services. Schools and colleges must be well resourced to provide on-site support and make referrals where necessary.”
The report notes that one in 10 children aged between five and 16 have had a diagnosed mental disorder.
The Committees say they support the Government’s commitment to make personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) mandatory in schools and colleges but, they caution, the promotion of wellbeing cannot be confined to PSHE lessons.
They recommend a “whole-school” approach that weaves wellbeing throughout school culture, and suggest changes within the curriculum and teacher training will be needed to achieve this.
The MPs also said they heard concerns - from both parents and young people - that schools and colleges are pursuing exam results to an extent that was affecting children’s mental health.
The Committees said Theresa May’s decision to hold an early election meant they had been unable to go into the depth they would have liked in this report and they called upon their successor Committees to return the focus to the issue of children’s mental health in education in the new Parliament.
They also called upon the next Government to review the effect of the budget reductions in the education sector.
Commenting on the report, Adam Shaw, chairman of mental health charity The Shaw Mind Foundation, voiced his support for the recommendations laid out.
“The government should not shy away from its duty or hide behind process,” he said.
“It should embrace the recommendations of the Health and Education Select Committees.”
The Shaw Mind Foundation launched its HeaducationUK campaign, which is calling for compulsory mental health education, in April 2017.