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Westminster joins schools coalition in call for mental health reform

Westminster joins schools coalition in call for mental health reform

30 October 2021

Westminster joins schools coalition in call for mental health reform

Westminster School has joined a coalition of 13 of the country’s best known independent and state schools to call for radical reform of how mental health is supported in educational settings.

The Coalition for Youth Mental Health in Schools has released an October 2021 report, Fixing a Failing System, which highlights the need for an overhaul of counselling and PSHE in secondary schools and also demands an increase in the provision of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

Following a major study coordinated by policy and research body Public First, which took in academic research, opinion polling and focus groups, and expert witness evidence sessions, the coalition has come together to make eight recommendations, which taken together it believes should be a minimum entitlement for all young people:

  • The introduction of a nationally standardised framework for measuring and tracking outcomes for CAMHS across the country alongside increased funding.
  • The government should accelerate its ambition to ensure every school has a designated mental health leader by 2023 by bringing forward the funds allocated for training by two years.
  • The government should introduce a statutory requirement for every school staff member to receive appropriate mental health and wellbeing awareness training as part of annual safeguarding training.
  • Schools should restrict mobile phone use during the academic school day and educate students on how to be safe online.
  • All schools to teach at least one properly timetabled lesson of PSHE education each week.
  • The government to invest £11.6 million a year from 2023 into a new ITT route to ensure every secondary school in England has a specialist trained PSHE teacher by 2030.
  • The government should centrally fund a school counsellor in every school.
  • A new apprenticeship trailblazer route to increase the diversity of school counsellors.

The coalition’s report included several shocking findings from its opinion research exercise, including the results from a poll of 1,010 young people on their experience of life under Covid-19:

  • 71% reported feeling like they had no motivation more frequently than pre-pandemic.
  • 62% reported feeling anxious or worried more frequently than pre-pandemic.
  • 46% reported feeling a continuous low mood or sadness more frequently than pre-pandemic.
  • 42% reported not getting any enjoyment out of life more frequently than pre-pandemic.
  • 38% reported feeling hopeless or tearful more frequently than pre-pandemic.
  • 18% reported having suicidal thoughts more frequently than pre-pandemic.

On release of the report, Westminster Head Master, Dr Gary Savage, said: “Everyone who works in schools recognises the mental health challenges faced by young people today. The pandemic has not created this situation, but it has certainly exacerbated it. Sharing experiences and insights informed by our common humanity, and supported by government investment at a national level and on a transformational scale, we must try to provide every pupil with the confidence and resilience to meet the challenges of twenty-first century living. Working together, we have to find a way to allow our young people to reconnect with themselves, one another and the wider world as children, as free from anxiety as possible, with all our love and support.”

The coalition, which straddles some of England’s most respected independent schools and highest performing multi-academy trusts in the state sector, is made up of: Alleyn’s School, Lady Eleanor Holles School, City of London School for Girls, David Ross Educational Trust, Eton College, Oasis Community Learning, Outwood Grange Academy Trust, Reach Academy, Feltham, Star Academies, St Paul’s School, Wellington College, Westminster School and Wycombe Abbey.

Coalition chair Jane Lunnon, the headteacher of the Alleyn’s School in London, said: “Whether reactive or proactive, all of the recommendations reflect something exciting; the drive and energy which can be generated by teachers and school leaders when they come together, with a shared purpose and a strong mutual aim, to make a real difference.

“So, perhaps, out of the darkness of Covid, has come an important and energising opportunity, not only to turn on the light around teenage mental health – but to shine it brightly across the educational sector in this country. In doing that, we will help our young find ways to combat and defeat mental illness, to bolster and nurture their mental health and to emerge from these challenging times, all the stronger, full of self-belief, determination and agency and ready to switch on their own lights in the years ahead.”

Westminster joins schools coalition in call for mental health reform


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