In a 2017 summary report*, the UK Department of Education set out the findings of its research into what English schools and colleges are currently doing to support students with mental health needs and their efforts to promote positive mental health and wellbeing amongst pupils, and their experiences of putting such provisions into practice.
A few of the findings
The responses showed that a broad range of different activities are being used, with skill development sessions (73%) and sessions on particular mental health issues (53%) being the most common. They also varied across the age range, for instance, a much higher percentage of colleges (63%) than state-maintained primary-schools (16%) were actively trying to address the stigma surrounding mental health. However, one of the recurring themes was the need to create a shared vision and an ethos that fosters a culture of mutual care and concern (92%) and one that is integrated into the entire school day (64%), and ideally situated alongside the institution’s strategy for teaching and learning.
Participants in the study felt that further understanding and training, on the approach to supporting student mental health, was needed although many (59%) did acknowledge that a lack of internal capacity is often a challenge faced by educational institutions. The report highlights the importance of supporting staff members, not only so that they may build trust and work more effectively with their students, but also because ad hoc identification by staff members is by far the most common method for identifying pupils with particular mental health needs.
Although institution-wide provision for student support and positive mental health is widespread, the approach and prioritisation of this provision varies depending on the size, type and the phase of institution.
Whilst the report provides us with some robust national estimates and identifies several key factors that respondents felt were central to their institution’s success, the study should be viewed as a foundation for future policy and research.
* Conducted by NatCen Social Research & the National Children’s Bureau Research and Policy Team and comprising of a quantitative survey completed by 2,780 educational institutions and 15 qualitative case studies that were selected for their active engagement with student mental health.
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